The unit of Yum Brands, Inc., said preliminary tests showed three samples of green onions were found to be "presumptive positive" for the E. coli 0157:H7 strain. Tests were not yet conclusive, the company cautioned.
According to CDC statistics, that strain of E. coli causes an estimated 73,000 cases of infection and 60 deaths in the United States each year. The tests were conducted by an independent laboratory hired by the fast-food chain, while state health officials are conducting their own testing.
Taco Bell had closed eight restaurants on Long Island, New York, and one in New Jersey after a suspected E.coli outbreak that may have sickened more than 50 people in three states. Health officials in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were investigating E.coli cases in people who had eaten at Taco Bell, though a source had not been determined.
The Taco Bell units in the affected region were serviced by the McLane Foodservice Distribution in Burlington Township, NJ.
Taco Bell said yesterday the eight New York restaurants were set to reopen and that it also hoped to reopen the New Jersey restaurant that day.