1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak

The 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak occurred when 732 people were infected with the Escherichia coli O157:H7 bacterium originating from undercooked beef patties in hamburgers.[1][2][3] The outbreak involved 73 Jack in the Box restaurants in California, Idaho, Washington, Nevada, Louisiana, and Texas and has been described as "far and away the most infamous food poison outbreak in contemporary history."[4][5][6] The majority of the victims were children aged under 10-years old.[7][8] Four children died and 178 other victims were left with permanent injury including kidney and brain damage.[9][10][11][12][13]

The wide media coverage and scale of the outbreak were responsible for "bringing the exotic-sounding bacterium out of the lab and into the public consciousness" but it was not the first E. coli O157:H7 outbreak resulting from undercooked patties. The bacterium had previously been identified in an outbreak of food poisoning in 1982 (traced to undercooked burgers sold by McDonald's restaurants in Oregon and Michigan) and prior to the Jack in the Box incident there had been 22 documented outbreaks in the United States resulting in 35 deaths.[14]


Health inspectors traced the contamination to the restaurants' "Monster Burger" sandwich which had been on a special promotion (using the slogan So good it's scary!) and sold at a discounted price.[14][15] The ensuing high demand "overwhelmed" the restaurants and the product was not cooked for long enough or at a high enough temperature to kill the bacteria.[16] At a 1993 press conference the president of Foodmaker (the parent company of Jack in the Box) blamed Vons Companies Inc. (supplier of their hamburger meat) for the E. coli epidemic. However, the Jack in the Box fast-food chain knew about but disregarded Washington state laws which required burgers to be cooked to 155 °F (68 °C), the temperature necessary to completely kill E. coli. Instead, it adhered to the federal standard of 140 °F (60 °C). Had Jack in the Box followed the state cooking standard, the E. coli outbreak would have been prevented, according to court documents and experts from the Washington State Health Department.[17] Subsequent investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified five slaughterhouses in the United States and one in Canada as "the likely sources of [...] the contaminated lots of meat."[18] In February 1998, Foodmaker agreed to accept $58.5 million from Vons and eight other beef suppliers to settle the lawsuit started in 1993.[19]


171 people required hospitalization.[20] The majority of the victims who presented symptoms and were clinically diagnosed (but not hospitalized) were children aged under 10 years old.[7][8]

45 of the infected children required hospitalization, of whom 38 suffered serious kidney problems and 21 required dialysis.[21]

4 children died:


External video
"Chasing Outbreaks: How Safe is our Food?". Retro Report short film dated May 10, 2015, discussing the Jack in the Box outbreak and how it led to major changes in industry practices and government oversight of the food supply. (Duration: 11 mins 8 secs)

Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL], addressing a congressional hearing on food safety in 2006, described the outbreak as "a pivotal moment in the history of the beef industry."[31] James Reagan, Vice President of Research and Knowledge Management at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), said that the outbreak was "significant to the industry" and "the initiative that moved us further down the road [of food safety] and still drives us today."[32] David Acheson, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Associate Commissioner for Foods, recently told Retro Report that "Jack in the Box was a wakeup call to many, including the regulators. You go in for a hamburger with the kids and you could die. It changed consumers' perceptions and it absolutely changed the behaviors of the industry."[33]

As a direct result of the outbreak:

See also


  1. Schlosser 2001, p. 198.
  2. Nestle 2010, p. 73.
  3. "Other big E.Coli outbreaks". South Wales Echo. Cardiff. 11 March 2008. p. 9. ProQuest document ID 342321106.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Golan et al. 2004, p. 10.
  5. Hanlon, Michael (21 May 2001). "The making of a modern plague". Daily Mail. London. p. 30. ProQuest document ID 321207886.
  6. Denn, Rebekah (13 May 2011). "Poisoned author Jeff Benedict examines the current state of food safety in the US". The Christian Science Monitor. Boston, MA. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  7. 1 2 Hunter 2009.
  8. 1 2 Schlosser & Wilson 2006, p. 180.
  9. 1 2 3 Detwiler, Darin. "Do Meat and Poultry Handling Labels Really Convey Safety?". Food Quality and Safety. Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
  10. 1 2 Roberts 2008, p. 182.
  11. Rogers, Lois (16 April 1995). "Killer in beef spreads alarm". The Times. London. p. 1. ProQuest document ID 318273338.
  12. Sylvester, Rachel (11 June 1995). "Children risk death from burger bug". The Sunday Telegraph. London. p. 9. ProQuest document ID 309266408.
  13. "Foodmaker". Financial Times. London. 25 February 1998. p. 1. ProQuest document ID 248542525.
  14. 1 2 Drexler 2009, p. 81.
  15. Manning 2010, p. 10.
  16. Green, Emily (6 June 2001). "The Bug That Ate The Burger". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Retrieved 7 July 2013.
  17. Porterfield, Elaine; Berliant Mcclatchy, Adam (June 17, 1995). "Jack In The Box Ignored Food Safety Regulations, Court Documents Say". The Spokesman-Review Co. The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  18. Davis 1993, p. 258-263.
  19. "Jack in the Box gets $58 mil in E. coli case". Hawaii, Inc. The Star Bulletin. February 25, 1998. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  20. "Food Safety and the Civil Justice System" (PDF). American Association for Justice. Washington, D.C. 2015. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  21. Huemer, Richard P.; Challem, Jack (1997). The Natural Health Guide to Beating Supergerms. New York: Pocket Books. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-671-53764-7.
  22. Marler, Bill (December 24, 2012). "20 Years Later – Remembering the First E. coli Victim". Food Poison Journal. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  23. Rogers, Lois (16 April 1995). "Killer in beef spreads alarm". The Times. London. p. 1. ProQuest document ID 318273338.
  24. Sylvester, Rachel (11 June 1995). "Children risk death from burger bug". The Sunday Telegraph. London. p. 9. ProQuest document ID 309266408.
  25. "Foodmaker". Financial Times. London. 25 February 1998. p. 1. ProQuest document ID 248542525.
  26. "Jack in the Box's Worst Nightmare". The New York Times. New York. February 6, 1993. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  27. Heberlein, Greg; King, Warren; Blake, Judith; Miller, Margaret (January 22, 1993). "Boy Dies From Tainted Meat - 2-Year-Old Is First Victim Of Food Poisoning". The Seattle Times. Seattle. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  28. 1 2 "17-Month-old Is 3d Child to Die Of Illness Linked to Tainted Meat". The New York Times. New York. February 22, 1993. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  29. Kelley, Tina (July 7, 1996). "Chronology Of E. Coli Outbreak". The Seattle Times. Seattle. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  30. Andrews, James (January 22, 2013). "Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak: Riley Detwiler's Story". Big Y Foods. Springfield, MA. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  31. Food Safety: Current Challenges and New Ideas to Safeguard Consumers: Hearing Before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, United States Senate, 109th Cong. 76 (15 November 2006) (statement of Senator Dick Durbin).
  32. 1 2 Andrews, James (11 February 2013). "Jack in the Box and the Decline of E. coli". Food Safety News. Seattle, WA. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  33. Michels, Scott; Magratten, Drew (10 May 2015). "Chasing Outbreaks: How Safe Is Our Food?". Retro Report. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  34. 1 2 3 Benedict 2011, p. xi.
  35. 1 2 Roberts 2008, p. 183.
  36. Golan et al. 2004, p. 14.
  37. Pathogen Reduction; Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems, 61 Fed. Reg. 38806 (1996).
  38. News Desk (April 21, 2011). "Name Change for Food Safety Advocacy Group STOP". Food Safety News. Seattle. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  39. Balter, Joni (January 9, 1994). "Darin Detwiler: He Lost Son To E. Coli, Now Is Hellbent On Making It To Olympia". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  40. King, Warren (February 25, 1993). "E. Coli Victim Leaves Legacy Of Awareness". The Seattle Times Company. The Seattle Times. Retrieved 5 June 2014.
  41. Canaday, Autumn. "USDA Press Release No. 0186.04: Veneman Names New Member to National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection". USDA. USDA Office of Communications. Retrieved 5 June 2014.

External links

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