E. Coli Outbreak at Chipotle Restaurants Causing Temporary Closures

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Bawa_021115Dozens of Chipotle restaurants are temporarily closing—and it’s not because of bad business.

The Washington State Department of Health has linked an E. coli outbreak to food served at Chipotle restaurants, although the specific source of contamination is still under investigation. To date, 19 cases have been reported in Washington and three in Oregon, with eight hospitalizations. Although six different restaurants appear to be the source of the E. coli outbreak, more than 40 locations have shut their doors voluntarily out of caution.

“We immediately closed all of our restaurants in the area out of an abundance of caution, even though the vast majority of these restaurants have no reported problems,” said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold.

Washington State epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist is urging anyone who has gotten sick within the past three weeks after eating at a Chipotle restaurant to visit a doctor.

“The elderly and very young children are more likely to become severely ill from this kind of E. coli infection,” notes Lindquist in a statement.

Chipotle is facing lawsuits over previous foodborne-related illness incidents. In August, approximately 100 people got sick from norovirus infections (17 employees and 82 customers) at a Chipotle in Simi Valley, California. The restaurant closed for one day to improve health code violations. Later that month, tomatoes from 22 Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota were discovered to be the source of an outbreak of salmonella bacteria.

Most known E. coli strains are harmless, but some can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and nausea.

In a statement, Arnold further states that Chipotle will work with health officials to determine the cause of the outbreak and when to reopen the restaurants: “The safety and wellbeing of our customers is always our highest priority. We offer our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by this situation.”

Sources for Today’s Article:
Goldstein, J., “Chipotle’s Mass Restaurant Closings And America’s Broken Food Safety System,” ThinkProgress web site, November 1, 2015; http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/11/01/3718182/chipotle-e-coli/.

“Chipotle temporarily closing OR, WA locations after E. coli outbreak,” abc6onyourside.com, November 1, 2015; http://abc6onyourside.com/news/videos/chipotle-temporarily-closing-or-wa-locations-after-e-coli-outbreak.