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E. Coli Outbreaks At Chipotle Restaurants 'Appear To Be Over,' CDC Says

A Chipotle Mexican Grill employee prepares a burrito for a customer in Seattle. The CDC believes the two recent <em>E. coli</em> outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants are over.
Stephen Brashear
A Chipotle Mexican Grill employee prepares a burrito for a customer in Seattle. The CDC believes the two recent E. coli outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants are over.

Two E. coli outbreaks linked to Chipotle restaurants "appear to be over," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

The first, larger outbreak hit 55 people in 11 states, with Washington having the most cases, the CDC says. The second outbreak, which was caused by a different strain of E. coli, infected five people in Oklahoma, Kansas and North Dakota.

The CDC says it last received a report of an illness related to the outbreaks on Dec. 1, 2015.

"The epidemiologic evidence collected during this investigation suggested that a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants was a likely source of both outbreaks," the CDC says. However, the investigators were not able to determine the source of the infections.

Chipotle is also linked to other types of outbreaks, NPR's Jim Zarroli reported last month:

"In December, scores of students at Boston College fell ill after eating at a nearby Chipotle, an outbreak the company said was due to a norovirus, which causes vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.

"And in August, a salmonella outbreak in Minnesota sickened 64 people who had eaten at Chipotle. The state's Department of Health later linked the illness to tomatoes served at the chain."

Jim says the outbreaks have challenged the country's image of serving fresh, healthful "food with integrity." It's also hurt sales:

"The bad publicity has taken a toll on the bottom line at the company, which has warned that its sales fell in the last quarter of 2015. Once a darling of Wall Street, Chipotle's stock fell 30 percent last year, and the company says its sales have fallen by as much as 11 percent."

Chipotle stock jumped after the CDC announcement and closed the day up 4.34 percent, at $472.64.

The company has vowed to implement a new plan to establish itself as an "industry leader in food safety."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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