SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (June 10, 2010) Subway is working with public health agencies investigating a salmonella outbreak involving units of the chain in 22 counties in Illinois, the state’s Department of Public Health said Thursday.
The department said 71 people have been sickened by the outbreak of the Hvittingfoss strain of salmonella, a relatively rare serotype of the bacteria typically associated with only one or two illnesses a year in the state.
Illnesses of the Subway-linked outbreak were reported to have started between May 11 and May 25. All of those who were sickened, including 17 who required hospitalization, are recovering, Illinois health officials said.
Subway and state officials said that while no specific food in the restaurants has been confirmed as having an association with the outbreak, the chain voluntarily withdrew all lettuce, green peppers, red onions and tomatoes from the suspected dates from its restaurants, replacing those products with newer ones.
“The Subway brand will continue to work with the Department of Health to assist in pinpointing the exact cause of the outbreak,” a representative for the chain said Monday.
Subway is owned by Milford, Conn.-based Doctor’s Associates Inc. and has more than 32,000 franchised restaurants worldwide, including 23,000 in the United States.
The affected Subway restaurants are located throughout 22 counties in Illinois, including Bureau, Cass, Champaign, Christian, Coles, Dewitt, Fulton, Knox, La Salle, Macon, Marshall, Moultrie, Ogle, Peoria, Sangamon, Schuyler, Shelby, Tazewell, Vermilion, Warren, Winnebago and Will.
The Illinois health department said it is working with Subway, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several local health departments as it continues to investigate the outbreak.
Subway said food safety is “of paramount importance” to the chain. Subway augments regular public health department inspections of its restaurants with monthly inspections by regional chain personnel, who work with store operators to train staff in safe food handling and preparation techniques, and the chain and designated third-party auditing companies regularly inspect produce vendors.
In March, a franchised Subway restaurant in Lombard, Ill., was associated with more than 116 confirmed cases of shigella illness, 13 of which required hospitalization. The restaurant was closed for about a month for testing, cleaning, restocking and supplemental staff training, but a definitive source of the outbreak has yet to be announced by public health officials.
Molly Gise contributed to this report.
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