On November 12, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released an estimate that 50 people had become ill with Escherichia coli O26 (E. Coli) after eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill branches in Washington and Oregon during October. The restaurant had temporarily closed over 40 restaurants in those two states, now reopened, while health officials investigated the outbreak.
E. coli is a type of anaerobic bacterium that is commonly found in the digestive tracts of humans. Yet some strains, including O26, can cause illness such as diarrhea and can even be fatal. Fortunately, according to Oregon Health Authority spokesman Jonathan Modie, no one died from this particular outbreak.
“Many people affected with Shiga toxin E. coli may not seek health care, so the number of people made ill by this outbreak is likely more than identified,” Modie said in a statement during the outbreak.
Modie advised, “Health officials want people who have eaten at a Chipotle between Oct. 14 and 23 and become ill with vomiting and bloody diarrhea to see their health-care provider and mention this outbreak.”
This was not the first time Chipotle affected people with foodborne illnesses. In August, 100 California residents were affected with salmonella, which, according to Forbes, was linked to tomatoes. Then 64 people in Minnesota were also affected with salmonella in September. Although the testing and interviewing of victims is continuing, health officials suspect the strain of E. Coli found in Oregon and Washington might have originated from lettuce or tomatoes.
Students interviewed for this article indicated that the incidents of food poisoning have impacted their desire to eat at the fast-casual restaurant.
“I find it disturbing that there were incidents in which the food affected people with foodborne illness. I think that means that Chipotle is lax on their health policies,” North Hollywood High School senior Julie Yi said to JSR.
“Even though I don’t live in the affected states,” she continued, “I probably will not eat Chipotle.”
Chipotle has extensively cleaned the closed restaurants and has announced that it would take steps to bolster food safety during a crisis, according to USA Today. Chipotle also stated that it would conduct environmental and food testing in its restaurants and distribution centers and hire consulting firms to assess and bolster its food safety procedures.
“Hopefully Chipotle will be able to learn from their mistakes to create higher quality foods without foodborne illnesses,” Marymount High School freshman Chae Hyun Kim said to JSR.
“Otherwise,” Kim concluded, “Chipotle will lose more and more customers, including me.”