A Chipotle burrito bowl. (Photo: punctuated /Flickr)
Update: Earlier Friday, Dec 4, Chipotle said it was tightening its food safety standards. The Denver-based chain known for touting the quality of its ingredients said it hired IEH Laboratories in Seattle to help improve its procedures.
It said it will implement testing of all produce before it is shipped to restaurants and enhance employee training for food safety and handling.Chipotle has not yet said how sales have been affected by the bad publicity from the outbreak, but plans to provide a financial update before a presentation for analysts and investors Tuesday. In October, the company had forecast sales at established locations would be up in the low- to mid-single digit percentages for 2015.
It said that no ingredients that are likely to have been connected to the incident remain in its restaurants or supply system.
Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., said the company’s local produce suppliers may not all be able to meet the new standards. The company noted that its local produce program accounts for a “relatively small percentage” of the produce it uses, and only runs from around June through October in most parts of the country.
The E. coli outbreak connected to eating at 11 Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon is now being linked with E. coli cases in California, Ohio, New York, and Minnesota.
Chipotle explained in a press release that the number of cases connected with the Washington and Oregon outbreak has decreased from 50 to 37 cases as of Nov. 18. However, six cases in the four additional states were identified in which the E. coli strain matched that of the Washington and Oregon outbreak. Five of those six cases said they ate at Chipotle restaurants in:
- Turlock, California
- Akron, Ohio
- Amherst, New York
- Burnsville, Minnesota
Most of the people who fell ill after eating at Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon ate there between Oct. 13 and Oct. 30. One third of those affected by the outbreak were hospitalized, though fortunately, no deaths have occurred.
Due to the outbreak, Chipotle closed 43 restaurants in Seattle and Portland on Oct. 31, and reopened them November after replacing all ingredients at the restaurants and doing a deep cleaning. Chipotle explains what exactly the company did at those stores in a statement:
Specifically, the company conducted deep cleaning at the restaurants that have been linked to this incident, replacing ingredients in those restaurants, changing food preparation procedures, providing all necessary supply chain data to investigators, and surveying employees to be sure none have had any symptoms of illness (note: no Chipotle employees in any states have been ill related to this incident). Similar actions are immediately being taken in response to these newly reported cases.
E. coli infection is a type of foodborne illness that causes symptoms of diarrhea, cramping, and dehydration, usually two to eight days after exposure. While most healthy people get over the illness on their own, infection with E. coli can be especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, as well as the elderly and young children.
Additional reporting by the AP.