In the most wonderful news you can get on a Monday, Washington state officials said all tests from Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon came back negative for E. coli. Because health officials found no source of the bacteria in any of the Chipotle food they tested, that means that Northwest Chipotle restaurants could reopen as early as the middle of the week, the Associated Press reported. And every PNW resident drooled at the thought of getting a chicken burrito bowl with guac after about a week and a half of dearly missing Chipotle.
Washington epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist told the AP that he expects the 43 restaurants to reopen by Wednesday or Thursday. First, though, Chipotle will have to replace all of its food, check its employees for E. coli infection, do a deep cleaning of each store, pass a health inspection, and create a new procedure for how to properly clean produce. E. coli is most often contracted by eating contaminated meat, dairy, fruits, or vegetables. Jonathan Modie, an Oregon public health official, previously stated that the investigation was focusing on produce, because "it seems like the most common denominator is some kind of vegetable course."
But with no solid ties of the E. Coli outbreak to the Chipotle restaurants — and because Chipotle has been and continues to be so cooperative with ensuring the safety of its food — that leaves the restaurant chain able to reopen its doors across the Northwest.
There were more than 40 cases in the outbreak, with 14 of those people hospitalized. While no one died or suffered serious complications, two of the sickened diners are suing the chain. Both of the plaintiffs said they missed work because of their illnesses. However, that suit was filed before investigators found no direct link to Chipotle and the illnesses, so it's not clear whether or not their case will stand.
With the conditions met, Chipotle can reopen, and will likely see an influx of college students who have been starving for the past week and a half, and, well, me. And as to whether the food is safe to eat now, Lindquist told The Seattle Times:
I can't answer whether the food is safe, but I can tell you I agree with all of the steps they are taking. We have found no food with E. coli and there doesn't appear to be an ongoing risk at this point.