The CDC Can’t Figure Out What Caused Chipotle’s E. Coli Outbreaks

The official investigation is now closed.

Boston Inspectional Services Department Commissioner William Christopher eats lunch with his chief of staff, Indira Alvarez, at the Chipotle on Beacon Street. Chipotle reopened the location after 136 Boston College students and others got sick after eating there. (Photo: Keith Bedford/‘The Boston Globe’ via Getty Images)

Feb 1, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

After months of turmoil, Chipotle marked another step toward burrito-bowl normalcy on Monday: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it has closed its investigation into the two E. coli outbreaks that originated at the chain. An update on the agency’s website read, “These two outbreaks appear to be over.”

Since October, illnesses have been reported in 14 states between the two outbreaks—60 people were sickened, with 22 hospitalized and no deaths.

According to the CDC, “A common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants was a likely source of both outbreaks,” but with the case closed and the source eluding investigators since October, it’s unlikely that the culprit or culprits will be found.

Chipotle’s stock price, which dropped by 30 percent in the wake of the outbreaks, was up by nearly 4 percent Monday morning. “We are pleased that the CDC has concluded its investigation, and we have offered our full cooperation throughout,” Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesman, said in a statement.

With its efforts to overhaul food-safety protocols, give away burritos, and make Chipotle “the safest place to eat”—as CEO Steve Ells said on Today in December—the chain has been trying for months to move on from its food-safety crisis. But even with the end of the CDC investigation, Chipotle hasn’t seen the end of its trouble. There are multiple class-action lawsuits from victims of the E. coli, norovirus, and salmonella outbreaks, as well as a suit filed by investors alleging that the chain misled stockholders about its food-safety protocols. Then there’s the ongoing federal criminal investigation surrounding the norovirus outbreak in California.