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More than 140 sick after eating at Mighty Taco during recent week

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) -- A popular western New York restaurant chain is under investigation after reports of illness.

At least 142 people in Erie and Niagara counties have complained about feeling or getting sick after recently eating refried beans from Mighty Taco. The complaints came from customers at more than 10 different locations in the counties.

Symptoms of sickness included nausea and vomiting.

They ate there sometime between Sept. 27 and Oct. 6, according to the Erie County Health Department.

The health department says any locations that were complained about are being inspected.

The restaurant's Chief Operating Officer, Russell Jasulevich, said, "Mighty Taco takes this very seriously and is committed to providing the best products as we daily serve thousands of meals for our customers throughout Western New York."

The state lab in Wadsworth is testing a batch of refried beans provided by a third party to see if they may have caused sickness. Those test results won't likely be available for a few weeks.

In a precautionary move, Mighty Taco has removed that batch of beans from stores.

"The investigation and analysis into an incident of a possible foodborne illness can be very complicated and may take weeks," Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health, stated. "We need to interview each individual extensively to identify a possible source. I can assure Erie County residents that the full resources of the ECDOH are working on this."

Burstein said people have been calling the department with complaints of sickness.

"Every day were seeing reports of people who have eaten at a new Mighty Taco," she said. "So we're assuming that the contamination is really from a food product that was sent to Mighty Taco, and all the restaurants are considered equally at risk."

Burstein said the illness doesn't appear to last very long.

"The good news is people did not suffer from very serious illness," she said. "What were calling this as a case definition, is people who develop nauseasness and vomiting within 24 hours of eating at Mighty Taco."

Officials still aren't sure what the illness is.

"Because of a very fast onset of illness after ingestion of contaminated food, it's usually from a toxin that secreted by bacteria," she said. "So that's what were suspicious of because that's what the natural history of somebody who ingested food that is contaminated by a toxin from bacteria."
Niagara County Health Commissioner Elaine Roman said they have 19 cases of people getting sick from the county's three Mighty Taco restaurants. She also said their window of illness is more narrow, between Oct. 1-4.
Both Roman and Burstein were quick to point out the restaurant, as a chain, has very few health code violations.

Jasulevich's full statement can be read below:

"For the past few days, Mighty Taco has been working both internally and with the Erie County Health Department to investigate illness concerns expressed by a small number of customers. Mighty Taco first became aware of the situation when five customers from only four store locations recently reported these concerns.

 The focus has now turned to the New York State Department of Health testing an isolated batch of refried beans provided by a third-party supplier for any possible cause. There are no conclusive results at this time but, in an abundance of caution, Mighty Taco has voluntarily removed that sole suspect batch of refried beans from our stores and that batch is no longer available to customers.

 Mighty Taco takes this very seriously and is committed to providing the best products as we daily serve thousands of meals for our customers throughout Western New York."

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