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The 11 Most Significant Restaurant Food Illness Outbreaks in History

It’s estimated that nearly 50 million Americans (or roughly one in 6 people) are affected by foodborne illness each and every year. That results in nearly 130,000 hospitalizations and, tragically, about 3,000 deaths.

It’s safe to say, then, that foodborne illness–from botulism to listeria–is a huge problem. Often, the issue is linked to foods contaminated on their way to the grocery store, but there have also been a number of outbreaks linked to restaurants. So, what are the worst restaurant foodborne illness outbreaks in history?


1. Trini & Carmen’s Restaurant, 1977

Trini & Carmen’s Restaurant was a popular Mexican joint based in Pontiac, Michigan. As winter turned to spring in March 1977, the restaurant was linked to a serious botulism outbreak.

Investigations showed that the cause was a hot sauce made using improperly canned jalapeno peppers. Tragically, the restaurant had only recently made the switch from fresh to canned peppers. The cost was high: while no one died, 58 people became very ill and the restaurant’s reputation was seriously affected.


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