In 1993, 25 years ago, we had what the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) still calls the “Western States E. coli outbreak.” Most of us call it the Jack in the Box outbreak, the one that sickened 723 victims, most of them under 10 years of age.
Four kids died and 178 persons were left with permanent kidney and/or brain damage. This was a significant food safety change in that it shocked the world into realizing that what was felt to be safe food could, in fact, be very dangerous.
It also taught us that undercooking hamburger could sicken your customers. It also resulted in E. coli O157:H7 being determined to be a ground beef adulterant, to be followed later by six more strains of non-O157:H7 STECs being added to the adulterant list.
But in my mind, while outbreak was not, in itself, a food safety change, it did result, in addition to the above, one more new tool in the tool kit of food safety that has changed the land scape forever.