The popular Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle has taken dramatic action due to a public health scare. Local and state health officials in Washington and Oregon are investigating an E. coli outbreak that is now being linked to the restaurant chain. According to a press release from the Washington Department of Health:
“The restaurants under investigation are linked to 19 cases of E. coli illnesses in Washington. Three more cases were reported from Oregon, also associated with Chipotle restaurants. Seven of the Washington patients and one Oregon patient were hospitalized; there have been no deaths. “
In response Chipotle closed 43 restaurants in the states of Washington and Oregon. The outbreak has been clustered around the Seattle, WA and Portland, OR area. However, Chipotle voluntarily closed its stores in these two states. Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said in a statement “We immediately closed all of our restaurants in the area out of an abundance of caution, even though the vast majority of these restaurants have no reported problems”. The company is working with the health departments in the states affected to determine the cause of the outbreak.
According to the CDC, E. coli bacteria are commonly found in human and animal intestines and are a key component of healthy digestion. An infection can occur if a person has consumed small amounts of human or animal feces. E. coli infection can cause severe stomach cramps, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.