Taco Bell has hired a safety expert, tested its produce, eliminated green onions, changed suppliers, and hired a PR crisis-response firm, Penn, Schoen & Berland. The firm's advice: publicize safety, which the company has done in big market newspaper ads. Still, with 69 reported East Coast cases of E. coli and no smoking gun, the restaurant chain faces what reporters Janet Adamy and Suzanne Vranica call "a difficult marketing challenge: how to convince consumers its food is safe when it doesn't know what has made people sick." The last reported case occurred on December 2, 2006. The outbreak has produced calls from lawmakers to establish new rules and regulations to prevent food contamination. The brand has also taken a shot from the Produce Marketing Association, which stated that Taco Bell is not a member of an industry safety coalition that investigated sources of contaminated California spinach that killed three persons and sickened 200 nationwide in September.
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