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Applebee’s Changes Suppliers in Minnesota as E. coli Investigation Continues

Following reports that its franchise locations in Minnesota may be connected to an outbreak of E. coli O111, the Applebee’s restaurant chain announced Thursday that it has “changed suppliers” in the state.

When asked by Food Safety News, Applebee’s spokesman declined to specify exactly what supplies would be sourced from the new supplier. He also would not name the new or the previous supplier.

Sometime before the July 14 announcement of 13 E. coli O111 illnesses in Minnesota, Applebee’s locations in Minnesota stopped serving the Oriental Chicken Salad menu item, as well as related ingredients served with other products. The move suggested that at least some case patients had consumed the salad.

At least 13 people in Minnesota have fallen ill in the outbreak, with seven of them having eaten at Applebee’s. Because the other six cases have no apparent connection to Applebee’s, Minnesota health officials believe the outbreak has been caused by a “widely distributed food item” and may not necessarily have been served at Applebee’s.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the outbreak investigation also included two additional cases in two unnamed states. Officials declined to reveal those states until the investigation could positively connect them to the outbreak in Minnesota.

On Thursday, investigators in Minnesota were still working to determine which food product might have caused the illnesses, said Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Michael Schommer. Until then, they weren’t showing their cards in terms of any additional information.

“In epidemiological investigations, the gold standard is to find a sample of the food product with the outbreak pathogen in it,” Schommer said. “The majority of cases ate at Applebee’s, and while that information is certainly helpful to the investigation, we haven’t yet found the gold standard.”

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