by Tory Silver
Since October 31st, almost three dozen confirmed cases of E. Coli in the Pacific Northwest have been linked to the fast food chain, Chipotle. As a result, 43 restaurants have temporarily closed. 12 of the confirmed cases occurred in Oregon, and 25 occurred in Washington state. There are expected to be many more unreported cases as well.
A person can get E. Coli by eating food or drinking water that has come into contact with animal or human feces. E. Coli can be killed during processing if the food has been cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This disease causes severe, bloody diarrhea and vomiting that can last for several days. In extreme cases, E. Coli can even be deadly.
One of the people who contracted E. Coli after eating Chipotle is suing the chain for $75,000 in damages. Chipotle has not commented on this lawsuit, but they have claimed that “the safety of our customers and integrity of our food supply has always been our highest priority. We work with a number of very fresh ingredients in order to serve our customers the highest-quality, best-tasting food we can. If there are opportunities to do better, we will push ourselves to find them and enhance our already high standards for food safety.”
Chipotle, in addition to shutting down 43 locations, has hired two food safety consultants, cleaned the restaurants thoroughly, and has been testing their food for the disease. Officials think the E. Coli is coming from produce at a distributor level.
This is the third outbreak of foodborne illnesses related to Chipotle that has occurred this year. In August, Chipotle had to close a restaurant in California after 80 customers and 18 employees were diagnosed with Norovirus, a disease that causes extreme vomiting.
Also occurring in August, a Chipotle restaurant in Minnesota was linked to a salmonella outbreak. 17 people contracted the disease after eating at Chipotle. In total, 64 people were affected. Tomatoes were later cited as the source of the outbreak. Chipotle is known for having good food and fresh ingredients, but these recent outbreaks have caused Chipotle’s reputation to go down. People want to eat there, but three outbreaks in four months is a lot.