Taco Bell Hepatitis A Outbreak LawsuitsIn December of 2000, the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) learned of seven hepatitis A cases, including five hospitalizations, in Lake and neighboring Sumter Counties in a two week span. LCHD notified the Florida Department of Health, and the two public health agencies conducted a joint investigation into the hepatitis A outbreak, which revealed 21 hepatitis A cases in the two counties.
A case-control study indicated that food served at the Taco Bell restaurant in Fruitland Park, Florida, was the source of the hepatitis A outbreak, and further epidemiologic evidence showed that green onions were the most likely vehicle of transmission for the hepatitis A virus.
During its investigation, LCHD learned that hepatitis A outbreaks in several other states had been traced to the consumption of green onions at Taco Bell. Residents of Kentucky and Nevada had become ill with hepatitis A after eating at Taco Bell.
LCHD and other investigators ultimately identified 23 people who had become ill with hepatitis A after eating green onions at Taco Bell. In total, 15 cases required hospitalization due to the severity of their symptoms.
LCHD concluded that “[a]lthough most foodborne outbreaks of hepatitis A are due to food contaminated by an infected food preparer, we believe the ingredients were contaminated prior to arrival at the outlet in this outbreak. . . . The most likely contaminated ingredient is green onion.”
Marler Clark represented four clients in claims against Taco Bell after they became ill with hepatitis A infections. The last of the claims was resolved in 2006.