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E. coli outbreak remains under investigation; illness linked to Applebee’s locations

WILLMAR — The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture continue to investigate an E. coli O111 outbreak first reported on Monday.

Investigators are still trying to identify the food item, or items, that is the source of the illnesses.

Since the initial announcement on Monday, state Health Department epidemiologists confirmed two more cases of E. coli O111 infection, matching the genetic fingerprint of the bacteria associated with the initial cases. This increases the total number of Minnesota cases to 15.

The Department of Health has been able to conduct interviews for 14 of the 15 cases. Through these interviews, investigators confirmed that 12 of the ill people ate at an Applebee’s location in Minnesota between June 23 and June 29.

With this new information, the updated list of Applebee’s locations where ill people reported having eaten is as follows:

Blaine (two locations); Bemidji; Duluth; Monticello; New Hope; Roseville; Willmar; and Woodbury.

Applebee’s announced Thursday in a news release that, with clearance from the Minnesota Health Department, it has voluntarily changed suppliers in order to reintroduce the Oriental Chicken Salad to the menu today at restaurants throughout Minnesota.

In addition, Applebee’s restaurants in Minnesota will reintroduce green cabbage, shredded carrots, almonds and rice noodles to all items across the menu, the restaurant said in the release.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture continues to trace back ingredients to suppliers and points of origin, looking for a common source.