Chipotle restaurants in Kent, rest of state plan to reopen this week after E. coli outbreak

The first round of test results did not find E. coli bacteria in food samples taken from several Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants, according to officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Chipotle plans to reopen this week in Kent and the rest of the state.

The first round of test results did not find E. coli bacteria in food samples taken from several Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants, according to officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Chipotle plans to reopen this week in Kent and the rest of the state.

Food safety and disease investigation staff from the state Department of Health are still working to investigate the cause of an outbreak of illnesses linked to 27 cases of E. coli illnesses in Washington, according to a state Department of Health media release. Oregon health officials have reported 15 cases connected with Chipotle.

The 27 cases, connected in this outbreak include people from the counties of Clark (11), Cowlitz (2), Island (2), King (6), Skagit (5), and Whatcom (1). Ten of these people were hospitalized; no Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) complications or deaths have been reported. Most people who are ill report eating at Chipotle restaurants before getting sick, including the location at the Kent Station shopping center.

Chipotle announced on Tuesday in a media release that it would reopen all 43 restaurants in Washington and Oregon in the coming days with a fresh supply of all new ingredients.

“Health officials have concluded that there is no ongoing risk from this incident. Chipotle has taken important steps to make certain that their food is as safe as it can be,” the release said.

No Chipotle employees are among the confirmed cases, the company said.

“The safety of our customers and integrity of our food supply has always been our highest priority,” said Steve Ells, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “If there are any opportunities for us to do better in any facet of our sourcing or food handling – from the farms to our restaurants – we will find them.

“We are sorry to those affected by this situation, and it is our greatest priority to ensure that we go above and beyond to make certain that we find any opportunity to do better in any area of food safety.”

In Washington, the most recent case reported eating at Chipotle on Oct. 24. While health officials believe the risk for new exposures is very low, the number of cases in the outbreak may rise or fall as pending lab tests determine if more ill people have this specific strain of E.coli infection. In Washington, four tests are still in progress. Several food items were collected from Chipotle’s locations and sent for testing to the FDA lab.

Food outbreak investigations do not always identify a specific food source. A common reason for this is that the contaminated food source was consumed before the food samples were collected.

Chipotle is carrying out a range of actions to prepare for reopening, according to the state Department of Health:

• Every Chipotle in the state disposed of all food items, sanitized each facility, and will bring in all new foods before reopening

• Selected high-risk food items will be pretested before heading to the restaurants

• All fresh produce will be carefully rinsed, and sanitized

• County public health food safety inspectors will visit each restaurant to verify these actions

The type of E. coli in this outbreak is a strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC O26). It can cause bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and vomiting, and sometimes result in severe, life-threatening illness which can, in some cases, be fatal.

Local and state health officials in Washington and Oregon are investigating, working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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