Why Are So Many Chipotle Customers Getting Sick?

Chipotle Mexican Grill is in trouble. The fast-casual chain, which has more than 1,900 locations, has become well-known for the freshness and quality of its ingredients.

That may be changing, now that Chipotle is dealing with its third lapse in food safety over the past year.

On November 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that†45 people have contracted the e.coli bacteria in six states; at least 43 of them are linked to Chipotle. The current outbreak initially sickened 22 people in Oregon and Washington, and forced the temporary closure of dozens of restaurants.†Investigators have yet to determine a specific ingredient that is causing the illnesses, which have now spread to include†California, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio. No one has died, but 16 people have been hospitalized.

2 Other Lapses In Food Safety

Last August about 60 customers and 17 employees complained of getting sick after eating at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley, California.

The restaurant, which had had repeated violations in the past, closed down for a day so inspectors could disinfect the facility and throw out all the food. The establishment was eventually cleared and allowed to re-open.†

In the same month,†contaminated tomatoes served at 22 Chipotle locations in Minnesota were the source of a salmonella outbreak: a report from the Minnesota Department of Health†(MDH)†revealed that 64 people fell ill, and nine of them were hospitalized.†A spokesperson for the MDH says “there is no longer a risk of Salmonella from this particular product at Chipotle,” as all affected tomatoes were removed and Chipotle switched to a different supplier.

What Is E. Coli?

Most e. coli, or†Escherichia coli, bacteria are harmless; they live in our intestines and play an important role in digestion. However, according to the CDC, some [of these bacteria] are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract.”

E. coli is not the only food-borne disease. About 48 million Americans get sick every year from several types of food poisoning, according to the CDC; as a result an estimated 128,000 people end up in the hospital and 3,000 people die. These are of course entirely preventable.

So why do they happen? According to Healthline, these are the most common causes of food poisoning:

  • failing to wash hands completely before preparing or eating food
  • using utensils, cutting boards, or serving dishes that arenít clean, causing cross-contamination
  • consuming dairy products or food containing mayonnaise that have been left out too long
  • consuming foods that havenít been stored at the right temperature
  • consuming foods that arenít cooked to the right temperature or duration of time, especially meats and poultry
  • consuming raw seafood products
  • drinking unpasteurized milk
  • consuming raw produce that hasnít been properly washed

The Chipotle Effect

Steve Ells, Chipotle’s co-chief executive,†issued this statement: ďWe take this incident very seriously because the safety of our food and well-being of our customers is always our highest priority.”

Chipotle has marketed itself as a leader in using fresh, local produce and pasture-fed animals raised without antibiotics and synthetic hormones. That reputation has taken a big hit, resulting in an 18-month low for its stock on November 20. This means that the stock†is now down 22% this year, and it has lost nearly a third of its value from its highest level over the past year.

Officials are still investigating exactly what has caused this latest, huge, outbreak of food poisoning, but meanwhile, why not prepare your food at home, where you are in charge of your own food safety?

Image credit: saechang via Flickr

83 comments

Jim V
Jim Ven5 months ago

thanks

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Jim V
Jim Ven5 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Teresa Fazackerley
Teresa F2 years ago

thank you

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

It's hard to know where and what to eat.

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Sen Heijkamp
Sayenne H2 years ago

thanks

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Tim C.
Tim C2 years ago

ty

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