Chipotle Temporarily Closes 43 Locations After Customers Sickened With E. Coli
The same day Chipotle offered $3 “booritos” to those dressed in full Halloween costume, the fast-food chain announced that 43 stores in Washington and Oregon were temporarily closing owing to an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 22 people.
Chipotle released a statement on Saturday saying that the 19 cases of E. coli illness reported in western Washington and three in Portland, Oregon, were directly linked to the restaurants now under investigation by the respective state health departments. Eight people have been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths. On Monday, the cause of the outbreak had yet to be determined.
“The vast majority of these restaurants have no reported problems,” Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle, said in a statement to USA Today. “We are working with health department officials to determine the cause of this issue. We offer our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by this situation.”
The chain is working to provide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with food samples from the closed restaurants. The samples are going to state labs in Washington and Oregon; they will be tested to determine whether the bacteria is directly linked to the individual cases, according to a spokesperson from the Washington State Department of Health.
The first outbreaks of E. coli were reported on Oct. 14, USA Today reported. Symptoms of the illness include bloody diarrhea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
“Anyone who thinks they may have become ill from eating at a Chipotle restaurant in the past three weeks should consult their health care provider,” said Washington state epidemiologist Scott Lindquist in a press release. “The elderly and very young children are more likely to become severely ill from this kind of E. coli infection.”
This is the third food-safety issue Chipotle has faced in the past three months. In August, a salmonella outbreak in 22 Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota affected 64 people and hospitalized nine. Investigators determined that tomatoes from an out-of-state farm were the source. Since then, the chain has discontinued business with the tomato supplier and removed the products from Minnesota stores, according to Food Safety News. Later that month, nearly 100 people were sickened with norovirus infections after eating at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley, California.