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84 report illness after eating Mighty Taco refried beans

At least 84 people reported feeling ill after eating refried beans from 14 Mighty Taco locations in Erie and Niagara counties, public health officials said today.

The State Health Department is testing what the company referred to as “an isolated batch of refried beans” served at the restaurants from Sept. 27 through noon Oct. 6 to determine a cause, a process expected to take at least a week, officials said.

The refried beans were provided by a third-party supplier and have been removed from the restaurants, according to the popular chain.

Mighty Taco reported to the Erie County Health Department that the 84 customer complaints of illness represented less than 1 percent of its total customers. The company reported complaints it is aware of from Sept. 27 through Oct. 5.

Officials said it may receive additional complaints if more customers associate a recent stomach illness with eating at one of the restaurants.

The complaints included nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. Food poisoning can be caused by different organisms, and the culprit in this case remains unclear, awaiting the results of tests by the State Health Department.

The current complaints arose diners who ate food from 11 Mighty Taco locations in Erie County and three in Niagara County. The chain operates 24 stores, mainly in the Buffalo-Niagara region but also including two outside Rochester and one near Syracuse.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year 48 million people gets sick from a foodborne illness caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter and listeria are among the most common sources, although it has not been confirmed whether a pathogen like these is the cause of the complaints in this case.

Food samples were sent to state’s Wadsworth Center in Albany for testing. Meanwhile, officials encouraged individuals to report an illness that may be associated with the investigation by calling 858-7697.

“We are appreciative that the investigation is in the competent and professional hands of the experts at the ECDOH,” Russell Jasulevich, chief operating officer of Mighty Taco, said in a statement. “Mighty Taco will continue to cooperate fully in this matter as the well-being of our loyal customers is our first concern.”

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