CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Taco John's International yesterday announced initial results of independent testing conducted following E. coli contamination associated with three Taco John's locations, one in Iowa and two in Minnesota.



All reported cases appear to have been contained to the period between Nov. 28 and Dec. 6.



"We had two independent third-party labs test the new food we used to replace everything that we quarantined following health department notification of the illnesses," said Taco John's president and CEO, Paul Fisherkeller. "They are testing multiple food items and the first results, from our Cedar Falls location, came back negative for E. coli."



The company expects further results today from independent labs as well as from health departments in Iowa and Minnesota.



Also yesterday, there was an announcement in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, by Kirk Smith, supervisor of food-borne disease investigations at the Minnesota Department of Health, stating, "right now, our epidemiological evidence points to lettuce as the most likely source for the E. coli, but we are continuing to investigate and to work with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Iowa officials to determine a source more exactly."



Kevin Elfering, director of dairy and food inspection for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said he thinks that it is more probable that the contamination took place on the growing end, rather than elsewhere.



"The investigating health departments in both states have said that we do a superb job of complying with health and safety standards, so the problem wasn't with Taco John's procedures," said Fisherkeller.



Taco John's continues to work with federal, state and county health departments and outside investigators to definitively establish the cause of the illnesses and ensure that the episode of illness remains contained.



Taco John's International, based in Cheyenne, Wyo., operates and franchises more than 400 quick-service restaurants in 26 states.



The company will be posting regular situation updates at its Web site www.tacojohns.com.



SOURCE: Taco John's International via PR Newswire.