News Ticker

E. Coli Outbreak at Chipotle

by Sooyoung Park, News Editor

Photo by: Tori Stamm

In October 2015, the first wave of the E. coli outbreak appeared in popular restaurant Chipotle, and affected many people around the United States. Three months later, a second wave of disease emerged, making customers of this chain restaurant victims of the norovirus.

The E. coli disease and norovirus are entirely unrelated contagious viruses that often cause food poisoning and stomach flu. Their symptoms include stomach aches, abdominal cramping, nausea, mild to severe diarrhea, and vomiting.

The first wave of illness affected a reported 53 people, and the next wave of norovirus is said to have sickened roughly 140 students from Boston in late December.

Even after much investigation, officials still are not sure of the exact cause of the disease. This is due to Chipotle’s varied menu and self-serve system.

“When a food is identified as the source of an outbreak, up to 50 percent of the time a specific food item is not pinpointed as the cause. What is making this particular outbreak difficult to pinpoint is you have lots of different food items that are going into the product that consumers are buying,”said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).

However, there have been several accounts from victims of the disease who reported what ingredients they had included in their Chipotle meals.

One account was from an 8-year-old north of Seattle who reported that he was a vegetarian, cluing investigators in that the vegetables may be to blame instead of meat. Another account was from someone who had eaten a burrito bowl in Washington State; she had allegedly gotten so sick that she needed medical attention a week later.

Whatever the cause was, Chipotle is now putting into place an “industry-leading food safety plan.” This plan includes, but is not limited to, submerging onions in boiling water and covering them with lime or lemon juice to kill germs, chopping tomatoes and cilantro in centralized locations rather than in stores, testing samples of meat before shipping to stores, and marinating raw chicken in plastic bags rather than open bowls.