Is supply chain to blame for the recent Ecoli outbreak?

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With the recent Ecoli outbreaks at Chipotle and Costco, there is rampant speculation that supply chain is among the leading factors leading to the bacte...

With the recent Ecoli outbreaks at Chipotle and Costco, there is rampant speculation that supply chain is among the leading factors leading to the bacteria.

Often times, large restaurant or retail chains make themselves susceptible to bacteria in an attempt to become more cost efficient.

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In addition to testing produce and products such as salsa and guacamole, investigators have begun using records to find the source of the foods served at the infected outlets. This will help identify where exactly the food was contaminated along the supply chain.

However, it’s much easier said than done.

“We’re not always that successful, to be quite honest,” said Dr. Kathleen Gensheimer, chief medical officer for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA. “We don’t necessarily go after each and every food item that the facility serves. We are targeted n those efforts by the information our public health partners obtain.

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“From cilantro to tomatoes, peppers and onions, it can be very challenging to really tease out what specific item may have been contaminated and contributed to illness.”

Food-borne illness that span throughout multiple states have risen in recent years, as there have been an average of 24 multi-state outbreaks each year since 2010 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That is over three times the number of cases during all of the 1990s.

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But despite this data, food safety experts believe the supply chain from farm to the table inside a household is still safe.

“We are seeing these outbreaks more frequently, but we think a lot of that is due to the fact that we have better methods to detect these outbreaks,” said Matthew Weiss, an outbreak response team lead at CDC. 

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