ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota health officials are investigating an outbreak of E. coli infection, with some of the cases traced to eating at Applebee's restaurants, the state Department of Health said Monday.
Thirteen cases of the foodborne illness have been reported, the health department said, with seven people who reported eating at Applebee's restaurants — in Woodbury, Roseville, Blaine, Monticello and Duluth — between June 24 and 27. But health officials say there are multiple cases with no apparent connection to the restaurant.
Four of the 13 people who became ill were hospitalized, and all have recovered or are recovering, the department said.
Applebee's is cooperating with the investigation and has voluntarily temporarily removed its Oriental chicken salad from menus at all of its Minnesota restaurants, the department said. The cases involve five of the chain's restaurants, Applebee's said.
Since six of the cases have no connection to Applebee's, the company said in a statement that the illnesses likely are the result of a "vendor produce issue." None of the items are exclusive to Applebee's, the Kansas City, Missouri-based restaurant chain said. It also temporarily removed other ingredients including green cabbage and shredded carrots from its Minnesota menus.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps and diarrhea, the Health Department said. People usually become ill two to five days after exposure, but the time period can range from one to at least eight days. Most people recover in five to 10 days, but complications are common among those with weaker immune systems, including young children and the elderly.
Applebee's has 58 restaurants in Minnesota, all owned and operated by independent franchisees. Menus at Applebee's restaurants outside of Minnesota are not being changed, the company said.
Any Applebee's customers who believe they may have gotten a foodborne illness are asked to call the Minnesota Department of Health hotline at 1-877-366-3455.