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Taco Bell Blames E. Coli Contamination on Suppliers

(CN) - Taco Bell says Ready Pac Produce sent it contaminated lettuce that caused the 2006 outbreak of E. coli poisoning that sickened at least 71 people and brought dozens of lawsuits against the fast-food chain. Taco Bell and scores of its franchisees sued Ready Pac in Los Angles Superior Court.

Taco Bell claims Ready Pac failed to control its growers and to keep proper records that would enable a "farm-to-table traceback" of the outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control identified the source of the E. coli outbreak in late November and early December 2006 as "shredded lettuce consumed at Taco Bell restaurants" in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, Taco Bell says.

"Ready Pac provided only one variety of prepackaged iceberg lettuce to Taco Bell restaurants," the complaint states. "Ready Pac's sole manufacturing facility for that lettuce was located in Florence, New Jersey."

Since the outbreak, 37 lawsuits have been filed against Taco Bell and its franchisees by sick customers seeking damages, Taco Bell says.

The restaurant chain sued Ready Pac Produce, Ready Pac Florence Partnership, Gertmenian Produce, and Ready Pac Foods. It seeks more than $1 million in damages for breach of implied warranty and negligence.

Taco Bell is represented by Robert O'Brien with Arent Fox.

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