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15 sickened by E. coli in New Jersey

An outbreak of E. coli bacteria has sickened at least 15 people, two seriously, in central New Jersey during the past two weeks, officials said Sunday.

Authorities had yet to determine how and where the victims became infected. Investigators focused on a Taco Bell restaurant in South Plainfield where 11 of the victims ate.

The restaurant, which has been closed voluntarily since Thursday, passed a health code inspection last week and tests were being performed on stool samples from 21 of its employees.

Authorities were still looking for a few other employees from the restaurant and hoped to have results late Sunday or today.

"We have taken every precaution, including temporarily closing the restaurant until the investigation is completed, as nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and employees," said Rob Poetsch, a spokesman for Taco Bell Corp. of Irvine, Calif.

Seven of the victims were in hospitals Sunday night.

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