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e coli outbreak


Fast-food restaurant chain Chipotle has announced it is changing its cooking methods in an effort to address food safety concerns, sparked by an E. coli outbreak at several of its restaurants.

Chipotle has been battling the outbreak since late October. More than 50 cases of E. coli have been reported in eight states.

As a result Chipotle’s share price has dropped 18% since October.

The company outlined the changes on its website and said it was taking “aggressive actions”.

Photo Chipotle Mexican Grill

Photo Chipotle Mexican Grill

“In the wake of recent food safety-related incidents at a number of Chipotle restaurants, we have taken aggressive actions to implement pioneering food safety practices,” a statement on the website said.

Chipotle restaurants will now dip fresh ingredients, like onions, in boiling water to kill off any germs. The company is also preparing ingredients, such as tomatoes, in a centralized kitchen where they can be washed, chopped and tested before being sent to restaurants.

Chicken will be marinated in plastic bags rather than bowls and coriander will be added to hot rice to allow the heat to remove any microbes.

In February, Chipotle warned investors it had a greater risk of exposure to food-borne illness than its rivals.

In its annual report the company said its use of fresh ingredients rather than frozen and traditional stovetop cooking, rather than automated, put it at greater risk than competitors like McDonalds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been unable to identify the specific cause of the E. coli spread.

Chipotle partnered with food safety consulting firm IEH Laboratories, to come up with the new preparation methods.

IEH also will conduct external assessments of individual branches. These will take place alongside weekly and quarterly food safety audits.


Chipotle shares have slumped more than 12% on November 20 after the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) reported more cases of E. coli linked to the Mexican restaurant chain.

According to the CDC, 45 people had been infected with a strain of E. coli, 43 of whom reported eating at a Chipotle restaurant.

The cases were in California, Minnesota, New York and Ohio.

Earlier this month, Chipotle temporarily closed 43 outlets in and around Washington and Oregon states.

This was after health officials investigated an E. coli outbreak that made at least 22 people ill.

Photo The Columbian

Photo The Columbian

“The epidemiologic evidence available at this time suggests that a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in several states is a likely source of this outbreak,” the CDC said.

“The investigation is still ongoing to determine what specific food is linked to illness.”

Chipotle shares are now down by almost 19% this year, valuing the company at $17.3 billion.

  1. coli, short for Escherichia coli, is a type of bacterium present in the gut of humans and other animals.

Most strains are harmless but some can produce toxins that cause sickness in humans.

According to Mayo Clinic, E. coli infection typically begins three or four days after exposure to the bacteria, though you may become ill as soon as one day after to more than a week later. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea, which may range from mild and watery to severe and bloody
  • Abdominal cramping, pain or tenderness
  • Nausea and vomiting, in some people

Contact your doctor if your diarrhea is persistent, severe or bloody.