MAEBASHI, GUNMA PREF. - An operator of delicatessens in eastern Japan said Wednesday it has closed all 17 of its stores after some locations were hit by an E. coli bacteria outbreak that has killed a 3-year-old girl and sickened 21 others.
The 17 stores in Gunma, Saitama and Tochigi prefectures suspended operations Tuesday as it would be “difficult to continue business with the source of the infection yet to be identified,” the operator Fresh Corp. said.
A total of 22 people were infected with the O157 strain of E. coli after eating potato salad and other products purchased at the chain. The girl died in early September while the others suffered acute symptoms such as stomach aches.
Local authorities have inspected eight of the 17 stores and a food processing plant which produced the potato salad but found no traces of the bacteria.
The girl and 10 other customers were infected with E. coli after eating food bought at a store in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, on Aug. 11. The city government said the bacteria possibly had spread to a number of dishes within the outlet as customers shared serving tools such as tongs.
The group company of Zensho Holdings Co. voluntarily closed all the 17 delicatessens from Aug. 24. They reopened in early September but the Maebashi store voluntarily suspended operations again after the death of the girl was reported last week.