Chipotle Closes 43 Stores Following E. Coli Outbreak

Chipotle has temporarily closed more than 40 outlets in the Pacific Northwest due to a suspected E. coli outbreak.

Published Nov 2, 2015

[green-label]NEWS:[/green-label] Chipotle has temporarily closed multiple locations in the Pacific Northwest due to an outbreak of E. coli.

On 31 October 2015, the Washington Department of Health issued a statement regarding an uptick of E. coli cases in Washington and Oregon and the subsequent temporary closure of some Chipotle Mexican Grill outlets in those states:

Several cases of illness caused by E. coli have been reported in Washington and Oregon recently, linked to Chipotle restaurants in both states. The restaurants are voluntarily closed while local and state health officials investigate. Consult with a healthcare provider, if you ate in a Chipotle restaurant and have symptoms that may include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and vomiting.

A few days later, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement about the Chipotle closures, confirming that the majority of confirmed cases were in Washington State:

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with state and local officials in Oregon and Washington are investigating an outbreak of E coli infections that have been linked to food served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in those states.

State officials report that at least 22 people are infected with an undetermined strain of E. coli, including 19 in Washington and three in Oregon.

The Associated Press reported that the individuals sickened in the outbreak had visited Chipotle locations in Clackamas and Washington counties in Oregon, and Clark, Cowlitz, King, and Skagit counties in Washington. Washington State Department of Health medical epidemiologist Marisa D'Angeli cautioned "there might be a jump in cases" as news of the voluntary Chipotle closures reached customers who'd eaten there in October 2015.

Oregon Public Health Division spokesman Jonathan Modie also said three cases of E. coli in that state were traced to Chipotle in the recent outbreak, citing unspecified vegetable items as the possible link:

We are looking at everything but our epidemiology investigation is guiding us toward produce. Chipotle has meat products, but based on things we heard from people  who got sick ... it seems like the most common denominator is some kind of vegetable course.

While the outbreak was potentially linked to eight specific restaurants the chain closed 43 stores "[in] an abundance of caution," according to Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold, who mentioned the chain's plans for reopening the closed restaurants:

The timing of reopening will be dictated by the pace and progress of the investigation. Right now, that is the top priority.

Chipotle didn't address the issue on Facebook or Twitter broadly, but the @ChipotleTweets account fielded multiple queries about the scope of the closures:

Old, fake news rumors that Chipotle was closing all locations or the chain was busted for using cat and dog meat re-emerged during an initial period of confusion over the closures. On Twitter, @ChipotleTweets replied to such rumors by noting:

Per the Wall Street Journal, an earlier E. coli outbreak traced to Chipotle stores in Minnesota sickened 60 people. It was later determined tomatoes were the likely source of the pathogen, and Chipotle "acknowledged in regulatory filings that it could face higher risk of foodborne illnesses" due to the chain's stated commitment to sourcing local (and thus, occasionally variable) ingredients.


Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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