The Chipotle E. coli outbreak, previously thought to involve only locations in Washington and Oregon now includes cases in six sates. At least, 45 people have been sickened, 16 have been hospitalized.
The new states are California, Minnesota, New York and Ohio. By state the case count is as follows: California (2), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (1), Oregon (13), and Washington (26).
The total of 45 illnesses is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which is including only the illnesses that have been confirmed by PulseNet as being infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing E.coli O26.
Those sickened, who range in age from 2 years to 94, reported onset of illness dates ranging from October 19, 2015 to November 8, 2015. The median age is 22. Fifty-eight percent of ill people are female.
Health officials have not yet determined which food ingredient is causing the illnesses. All but two of those sickened with the outbreak strain ate at Chipotle before becoming ill. Investigators are interviewing patients to discover ingredients that all of those who became ill consumed. Tests have been performed on a number of food items taken from Washington and Oregon locations. The initial round of tests did not produce any positives for E. coli.
According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Washington woman, one of the ingredients in a burrito bowl was the source of illness. She ordered the meal from a Vancouver location on October 21 and began experiencing symptoms of an E. coli infection including abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea about three days later.
Health officials have linked illnesses to six restaurants in Oregon, five in Washington, one in Turlock, Calif., one in Akron, Ohio, one in Amherst, NY, and one in Burnsville, Minn. When the outbreak was thought to involved only Washington and Oregon locations, the company closed all 43 locations in those states temporarily. All locations have since reopened after they were deep-cleaned, sanitized and supplied with all new ingredients that were tested for pathogens before they were stocked. The company says none of its employees in Washington or Oregon had E. coli infections, an indicator that food was contaminated before it entered the restaurants. No other closures have been announced.
“We take this incident very seriously because the safety of our food and wellbeing of our customers is always our highest priority,” said Steve Ells, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle in a statement. “We are committed to taking any and all necessary actions to make sure our food is as safe as possible, and we are working diligently with the health agencies.”
“We offer our sincerest apologies to those who have been affected,” said Ells. “We will leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety of our food – from enhancing the safety and quality assurance program for all of our fresh produce suppliers, to examining all of our food safety procedures from farm to restaurant, and expanding testing programs for produce, meat and dairy items before they are sent to our restaurants.”