The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are teaming up with the Washington State Department of Health and the Oregon Health Authority to investigate the recent outbreak of E. coli from restaurant chain Chipotle. Thus far 10 people in Oregon have fallen ill and 39 people in Washington have become infected.
Though no one has died from the outbreak linked to Chipotle, this particular strain, O26, produces Shiga toxins that can cause serious illness. People tested for infection were found to all have been infected by this strain.
Washington cases have risen in Clark, King, Skagit, Cowlitz, Island, and Whatcom counties. The investigation is ongoing and no specific ingredient has yet to be linked to the outbreak. Preemptively, Chipotle voluntarily closed 43 of its franchise locations in the two states out of an “abundance of caution,” Chipotle said, even though only eight restaurants have been linked to the spread of E. coli.
Chipotle must conduct deep-cleaning and environmental testing in both its restaurants and distribution centers as well as testing ingredients before they resupply them. It remains to be seen when the results of these actions will be seen. Furthermore, Chipotle is hiring food-safety consulting firms to help identify where the outbreak came from and how to control it.
“The safety of our customers and integrity of our food supply has always been our highest priority,” says Chipotle chairman and co-chief executive Steve Ellis.
Symptoms of E. coli usually set in about three to four days after it is ingested, though the incubation period is different for everyone. Infection is most dangerous in children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. If left untreated, E. coli can cause more significant damage, including bowel necrosis or hemolytic uremic syndrome.
If you think you may have eaten tainted food, see your medical professional as soon as possible.