More cases of E. coli are being reported by Pacific Northwest Chipotle customers who dined at the Mexican fast-casual restaurant between the beginning of October and Monday. Forty-three restaurants spanning Oregon and Washington were temporarily closed Monday as a precautionary measure, and the latest update to the Chipotle E. coli outbreak revealed more store closings following an uptick in reported cases. Twelve cases have now been reported in Oregon, with another 25 reported in Washington. The Washington cases have been linked to five Chipotle locations, while E. coli reports have been traced to two counties in Oregon. Though the outbreak appears to be worsening, there is a bit of good news.
The strain of E. coli that has infected dozens of customers is a less severe form known as the Shiga toxin 026 strain. Those who are sick have a lower risk for more severe symptoms like kidney failure. As of Tuesday evening, no deaths have been reported in either state. Both states are one step closer to potentially tracing the cause of the outbreak as well. Authorities believe that fresh produce might be to blame rather than meat or other food items. Testing is still underway and samples have been sent to the FDA for verification. If officials do, in fact, discover which food is to blame, they will then attempt to trace it back to the farm it was shipped from.
This isn't the first time that Chipotle has dealt with health-related issues this year. In August alone, the restaurant experienced reports of norovirus in California and a salmonella outbreak in Minnesota. Regarding the norovirus, the affected store in Simi Valley was promptly cleaned and then reopened. Tomatoes were at fault for affecting 64 customers in Minnesota across 17 Chipotle locations. Likewise, a Chipotle located in King County, Washington, had two cases of E. coli reported in July. In that incident, the customers affected fell ill to the more severe strain of the bacteria, E. coli O157: H7.
Already, a customer in Washington has filed a lawsuit against Chipotle over reportedly becoming sick after eating at the restaurant. No other lawsuit filings have been reported, though two suits have been filed in Minnesota over the August outbreak. The outbreaks and ensuing fallout have lowered Chipotle's stock considerably, and it's unclear when the Washington and Oregon investigations will conclude and when all 43 locations will re-open.