After Chipotle voluntarily closed 43 locations in the Pacific Northwest, some customers are having second thoughts on picking up a meal at the popular food chain.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) said on Tuesday that there were 12 confirmed cases of E. coli in the state. According to Washington state health officers, there are 25 outbreaks in Washington and, of that number, 23 people ate at Chipotle.
The OHA states that anyone who ate at Chipotle between October 14 to 23 and showed symptoms of bloody diarrhea and vomiting should immediately contact their health care provider.
E. coli is a food borne bacteria that affects the intestines and can lead to cramping, severe diarrhea, vomiting, and, in worse cases, death.
Customers that were affected are going so far as to sue the food chain like registered nurse Charmaine Denise Mode who ate a burrito bowl in one of Chipotle’s Washington stores on October 21.
After developing symptoms of the bacteria, she got tested and her stool sample showed positive results for shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Mode filed a lawsuit for $75,000 after becoming infected.
At the Pacific Northwestern Chipotle locations, scientists said that they had identified a specific microorganism responsible for an E. coli outbreak in customers. The bacteria was found within fresh produce such as lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and even some spices.
Although the Mexican-style fast food chain has developed a reputation for fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, it was not a big shock that a food-related outbreak erupted from their restaurant.
This is not the first time a sickness outbreak has occurred in Chipotle. This latest incident marks the third time something like this happened at Chipotle restaurants this year. A location in Simi Valley, California temporarily closed after 80 customers and 18 employees developed symptoms of Norovirus this past August.
Another incident in August took place in Minnesota. State health and agriculture officials reported an outbreak of salmonella among customers of 17 different Chipotle restaurants. In this situation, tomatoes were reported to be the cause of the outbreak that affected 64 customers.
Some customers are worried that the chain might close altogether.
“I don’t think that Chipotle will shut down completely because there are many other locations in the United States that have not had any problems. However, if the problem continues to spread within the chain, they should consider shutting down for health safety,” says sophomore Sarae Barnett.
Besides deep cleaning the restaurants, Chipotle said, it is hiring two consulting firms 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. “We work with a number of very fresh ingredients in order to serve our customers the highest-quality, best-tasting food we can. If there are opportunities to do better, we will push ourselves to find them and enhance our already high standards for food safety.”
Despite the recent events, some still cannot stay away from the beloved food chain.
“After hearing this news, I went to Chipotle the next day,” said sophomore Paige Gandy.
How would you survive if your local Chipotle closed?