Chipotle Bracing For More E. Coli Cases, Revamps Food-Supply Standards

(Kerry Lannert)

Chipotle is preparing for the worst when it comes to a six-state E. coli outbreak: anticipating that additional cases and more states may enter the contamination fray. 

The company said on Friday that additional reports of illnesses may soon come to light as states continue reporting data to federal agencies, Bloomberg reports.

The outbreak, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously linked to Chipotle restaurants, occurred from Oct. 13 to Nov. 7. So far, there has been no additional evidence of people getting sick since that November date, however the CDC indicated it’s still possible more cases will be found.

Issues for the fast Mexican restaurant began over Halloween when the company temporarily closed their restaurants in the Seattle and Portland, Oregon metropolitan areas, saying that they were protecting the public from an E. coli outbreak that had been linked to eating at Chipotle, but not to any particular food.

The CDC put the total at 36 cases in Washington, and 13 in Oregon. Sixteen people were hospitalized, but none developed the serious kidney condition that can be a complication of E. coli, especially in young children, and none of the patients died.

Since then, the issue has seeped past the regional area with two patients each in California and in Minnesota, and one each in New York and Ohio.

And that’s only the people who visited a medical professional and had samples taken: there are usually many more people who were sick but never made it to see a medical professional, instead choosing the “Netflix and ginger ale” treatment method.

While the CDC and Chipotle continue to investigate the outbreak, searching for the root cause, the restaurant has started to revamp its food-supply standards, Bloomberg reports.

Chipotle, working with Seattle-based IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group, announced a new program aimed at improving its supply chain and doing DNA testing of produce — a procedure that could better determine possible contamination.

It also plans to retool its training to help employees handle food more carefully.

“While it is never possible to completely eliminate all risk, this program eliminates or mitigates risk to a level near zero, and will establish Chipotle as the industry leader in this area,” Mansour Samadpour, head of IEH Laboratories, tells Bloomberg.

Chipotle Says More Cases May Be Reported in E. Coli Outbreak [Bloomberg]

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