Clifford M. Coles,
The San Francisco Chronicle headlines
were focused on the Tylenol extortion
poisonings that were capturing the attention of
an entire nation. The country was gripped by fear
that a medicine could be linked to deaths.
Off to the side was another headline in much smaller
print: “Deadly new disease linked to McDonald’s hamburgers.” The article mentioned that McDonald’s had to stop trading
on the New York Stock Exchange for the day. It was 1982, and the organism, which took almost six months for the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) to identify, was E. coli O157:H7.
Today, the issue goes beyond beef—E. coli 0157:H7 and other emerging strains of this pathogen have
caused death or illness in thousands of people worldwide via apple juice, spinach, salami, mayonnaise, petting
zoos, community swimming pools and many more sources. As of March 21, 2012, over 58 people were infected
in nine U.S. states due to contamination of romaine lettuce. This number may well rise.