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Aug 11, 2008

The Dirty Truth

Do you want fries with that? How about a side of E. coli? When you grab
a burger and fries from the local drive-through, you know you're
probably not getting the healthiest meal. But if you think trans fats
are your biggest concern, you might want to inspect those fries a
little more closely. At some fast-food restaurants, the hygiene habits
are appalling. Which are the worst?

Think you're not at risk? Think again. About 76 million (or nearly one
in four) Americans are afflicted with a food borne illness each year,
and about half of those come after eating at a restaurant. Here are two
chains that were linked to highly publicized instances of food borne

Taco Bell. In addition to having less-than-stellar health and
safety reports, a multistate E. coli outbreak linked to Taco Bell
stores secured it a place on this list. More than 70 people in five
states were sickened after eating at Taco Bell restaurants in November
and December 2006. The bacteria were traced to chopped onions.

Jack in the Box.One of the most famous E. coli outbreaks
occurred at Jack in the Box restaurants in 1993, when hundreds of
people became sick and four children died after eating tainted
hamburgers. Dozens of lawsuits were filed; one 12-year-old girl who
lapsed into a coma after eating at the restaurant was awarded a $15.6
million settlement. Since then, Jack in the Box has set up several ways
of ensuring the safety of their meat, including adding a new testing
mechanism for E. coli and increasing the meat cooking temperatures.