Arizona’s two-week-old E. coli outbreak involving Federico’s Mexican Restaurant in Litchfield Park, about 20 miles west of Phoenix, continues to expand, according to Maricopa County Health Department spokeswoman Jeanene Fowler. The total number of people sickened stands at 68 as of Aug. 12, up 16 since the last official count on Aug. 8. The number of people who’ve required hospitalization grew by five, reaching 23, including two Hemolytic-uremic syndrome cases. HUS is triggered by the Shiga toxin-producing infectious agent produced by the E. coli O157:H7 pathogen and can result in acute kidney failure, especially in children. “The investigation remains ongoing,” says Jeanene Fowler of the Maricopa County Health Department. While the outbreak is linked to Federico’s Mexican Restaurant, which voluntarily closed for three days to clean all surfaces and bring in new food, the investigation continues to find the food that introduced the bacteria to the establishment. Some of Federico’s patrons have already sued the Mexican restaurant. Federico’s Mexican Foods, which owns the restaurant at 13132 W. Camelback Rd. near Litchfield Park, said none of their other numerous locations in the Southwest are being looked at as the source of the E. coli infections. Federico’s are familiar to both Arizona and New Mexico residents as the company has about 20 outlets in metro Phoenix and four in Albuquerque. In a statement, the company said it has been committed to food safety since it began operations in 1993 and that its outlets enjoy top ratings from restaurant inspectors. Federico’s urged patrons who experience E. coli-like symptoms, including bloody diarrhea, on or after July 23 to seek immediate medical attention.