Panera Bread being investigated as possible source of NJ E. coli outbreak

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. — At least eight people have been diagnosed with E. coli across four New Jersey counties and the CDC is investigating restaurant chain Panera Bread as a possible source.

The New Jersey Health Department officials would only confirm that eight people have been hospitalized with E. coli, four patients in Hunterdon County, two in Somerset, one in Middlesex and one in Warren County.

Many customers of the Panera Bread in Woodbridge hadn’t heard about the E. coli outbreak that may and or may not be linked to the chain restaurant.

“I wish you’d told me before I ate,” Lissette Shumly, a customer, told PIX11. “How scary,” she added.

A spokeswoman for the New Jersey State Health Department stressed that their E. coli investigation is in the preliminary stages. Epidemiologists are  currently trying to determine if the strains of E. coli match and if if there is one common food source sickening people.

“I am not surprised,” Diane Carr, another customer, told PIX11.

Three cases of E. coli were reported to the website IWasPoisoned.com, which lets users talk anonymously about food poisoning. All three people mentioned Panera Bread.

In one case a person from Raritan had ordered chicken noodle soup. A doctor diagnosed that person with the E. coli infection on April 4.

Customers at the Panera Bread said they would wait until the Health Department's investigation is complete before changing their restaurant habits.