The Wendy's E. Coli Outbreak Could Be Even Worse Than We Thought

Just when leadership at Wendy's probably thought things couldn't get worse, that's exactly what happened. The embattled fast food restaurant has recently become embroiled in a foodborne illness controversy, since customers in four states (Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan) have been sickened with E. coli after consuming Wendy's sandwiches, per New York Post. Although the definitive source of the E. coli outbreak hasn't yet been totally confirmed, the suspect is the romaine lettuce that the chain often serves on their various sandwiches.

The E. coli reports started trickling in at the end of July/beginning of August, with a number of people requiring urgent care, even hospitalization. Symptoms of E. coli can range from mild to severe, and often include bloody diarrhea, extreme stomach cramps, vomiting, and low fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, this is not the first time (by a long shot) that romaine lettuce or its leafy cousins have been linked to foodborne illness. Between 2014 and 2018 alone, 51 "foodborne disease outbreaks" connected to leafy greens were made known to the CDC, although only five of those resulted in outbreaks that affected multiple states. Typically, outbreaks that include only one state are handled by local agencies without federal involvement.

Here's how things have changed for Wendy's

In the early days of the E. coli outbreak, "only" a couple dozen people had reported symptoms. Now, however, that number has skyrocketed to more than 100, and at least one attorney expects that number to clear the 200 mark in the coming days, per New York Post.

That uptick in infections isn't the only bad news, however. Also on the rise are lawsuits being filed by those who were sickened and hospitalized. To date, at least five Ohio residents and three Michigan patrons have filed lawsuits against the burger purveyor to compensate for their pain and suffering and medical bills.

For their part, Wendy's is reportedly cooperating with health officials in full to determine where the E. coli outbreak started. They've also preemptively pulled all romaine lettuce from stores, even though the leafy green has yet to be confirmed as the cause, as the CDC notes. In the meantime, maybe stick to cooked green veggies, like broccoli or spinach, for those nutritional needs. Better safe than sorry!