An E. coli illness in Minnesota was caused by the same strain as the one identified in the E.coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon. At least 42 people in those two states were sickened with E. coli O26 infections after eating a Chipotle meal. Fourteen of the patients were hospitalized.
DNA tests have been completed on samples from 23 patients and all of them match. When the samples were loaded into PulseNet, the national subtyping database for public health agencies, another match was discovered: the case in Minnesota. That person did not eat at a Chipotle before becoming ill. At this time, health officials don’t think the case is related to the outbreak in Oregon and Washington, but the investigation in Minnesota is ongoing.
Health officials have not yet determined the contaminated food source. Tests have been performed on a number of food items, produce items are among the suspects.
State health officials linked 11 Chipotle restaurants, including six restaurants in Oregon and five in Washington to the outbreak, but the company voluntarily closed all 43 of them in those states on a temporary basis. Today, Chipotle issued a statement saying it is ready to reopen them.
All of the restaurants have been 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.
Going forward, the company says it will implement new food safety procedures at all of its locations. It has retained two food safety scientists to help assess and improve its food safety standards.
“The safety of our customers and integrity of our food supply has always been our highest priority,” said Steve Ells, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “If there are any opportunities for us to do better in any facet of our sourcing or food handling – from the farms to our restaurants – we will find them. We are sorry to those affected by this situation, and it is our greatest priority to ensure that we go above and beyond to make certain that we find any opportunity to do better in any area of food safety.”