At least 8 people have been hospitalized in an E. coli outbreak -- and health officials suspect Panera could be the source

  • Eight people have been hospitalized for E. coli infections spanning four counties in New Jersey, the state health department told Business Insider.
  • The agency said it’s investigating an unnamed chain restaurant as the potential cause of the outbreak.
  • A Warren County health official said the chain under investigation is Panera Bread.

New Jersey health officials are investigating an E. coli outbreak potentially linked to Panera bread that has led to at least eight hospitalizations.

Of the eight people hospitalized, five have been discharged, the state health department told Business Insider. The agency said it is investigating a chain restaurant as the potential cause of the outbreak, without naming the chain.

A county health official said the chain under investigation is Panera.

“The Warren County Health Department and state Health Department are investigating a cluster of E. coli cases” potentially from “local Panera Breads,” Sarah Perramant, public health epidemiologist in Warren County, told NJ.com.

One Panera location in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, is the chief focus of the probe, Perramant said.

Panera did not respond to requests for comment.

One case of E. coli was reported to the website iwaspoisoned.com, which allows users to anonymously report suspected food poisoning, from someone who said they ate at a Panera in Raritan, New Jersey on April 4. The person said they had eaten chicken noodle soup, and that a doctor diagnosed them with an E. coli infection.

E. coli causes symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting. In severe cases, it can lead to hospitalisation.

The New Jersey health department said it’s working with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centres for Disease Control to determine whether the strains of E. coli in each of the reported cases match, and to identify the source of the outbreak.

“We’re working with the FDA district office in New Jersey and our own investigators to trace back sources of food the individuals may have eaten as well as vouchers of food deliveries made to any of the restaurants that may be part of the investigation,” the health department said.

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