Spencer Kent of Nj.com reports that on Friday, health officials in Warren County said the Phillipsburg-based Panera Bread is part of a “regional investigation” into the E. coli outbreak, which may involve other chain restaurants. 

The Department of Health is in the preliminary stages of an investigation into eight cases of E. coli in four counties. The Department is investigating a possible association with a chain restaurant, but the association may be broader than a single chain restaurant. The Department is in the process of gathering food history data from those who became ill.

The 4 counties are Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Warren. The case breakdown is 4 in Hunterdon, 1 Warren, 1 Middlesex and 2 in Somerset.

The NJ Department of Health is still awaiting lab tests to determine if the strain of E. coli bacteria (there are many) match. The CDC will then conduct confirmatory tests.

To date, eight people have been hospitalized and five of those individuals have been discharged.

While those who are infected with E. coli usually get better by themselves within about 5 to 7 days, some illnesses can be serious or even life-threatening. We encourage people to contact their health care provider if they have diarrhea that lasts for more than 3 days or is accompanied by high fever, blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that they cannot keep liquids down and they pass very little urine.

In addition, about 5 to 10% of people who are diagnosed with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS develops about 7 days after symptoms first appear, when diarrhea is improving. Clues that someone is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Any who develop these symptoms should seek out medical care.

It can be very difficult to determine where someone got sick. Individuals could have eaten a number of meals in a number of places before becoming ill. They could have eaten at several restaurants, at home or eaten food purchased at a supermarket. Sometimes the food source associated with illness is never determined. That’s why we conduct many interviews with sick individuals to get food history data and work with food safety officials to investigate food sources.

There are two parts to the investigation:

1. State lab tests are being done to determine if the strains of E Coli match; then the CDC does confirmatory tests.

2. Investigating to try to determine the common food source that made people sick. We’reworking 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 looking at records such as invoices of vouchers of food deliveries made to any of the restaurants that may be part of the investigation.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $650 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products.  The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s.  We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.

If you or a family member became ill with an E. coliinfection or HUS after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark E. coli attorneys for a free case evaluation.