SEATTLE – The latest developments in an E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington state and Oregon (all times local):
A woman has filed a lawsuit against Chipotle, claiming she contracted an E.coli infection after eating a burrito bowl Oct. 21 at a Chipotle restaurant in Vancouver.
Charmaine Mode from Kelso, Washington, filed the lawsuit Tuesday through Minneapolis law firm PritzkerOlsen in U.S. District Court in Western Washington. Documents say she sought treatment Oct. 27 after falling ill on Oct. 25 with nausea, severe diarrhea and other symptoms.
Three people in the Portland area and 19 people in western Washington have gotten sick with E. coli as of Friday. Seventeen of them had eaten at a Chipotle restaurant during the past few weeks. Eight people have been hospitalized but no deaths have been reported.
The Washington state epidemiologist says more people are being tested for E. coli in Washington state as health officials work to track down the source of an outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.
The official count of people sickened remained at 22 on Monday afternoon, but Dr. Scott Lindquist says about a dozen more people are being tested for the illness in Washington.
Lindquist says he does not expect the number of sick people to increase dramatically, but he said they are not positive yet that the outbreak is limited to people who ate at Chipotle restaurants over the past few weeks. Two people among the 22 cases have told health officials they do not believe they ate at a Chipotle restaurant.
Health officials are aggressively searching for more cases and are trying to find out what the restaurants connected with the outbreak have in common.
Analysts say the E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in the Northwest could make consumers wary.
Allen Adamson of New York marketing consultancy BrandSimple says people have many fast food options and if they are worried about the safety of food they will avoid a chain until they’re certain the problem has been resolved.
Chipotle’s stock fell as much as 5 per cent early Monday, but recovered slightly, and was down about 3 per cent by Monday afternoon.
Although the shutdown restaurants represent just 2 per cent of the company’s total locations of 1,931, Chipotle says each restaurant brings in about $2.5 million in revenue a year on average.
Laura Ries, president of Atlanta marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries, said the decision to immediately close the 43 restaurants in Washington and Oregon will help the brand in the long term. She says the chain “went above and beyond what they needed to do.”
A food safety lawyer who is involved in other lawsuits against Chipotle restaurants says people should not assume a company that focuses on local and fresh ingredients is going to be immune from food safety issues.
An E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington state and Oregon has sickened nearly two dozen people in the third outbreak of foodborne illness at the popular chain this year. Chipotle said they would try to say more about the E. coli outbreak later Monday.
Although E. coli cases have only been connected to six restaurants so far, the company has closed 43 restaurants in the two states. Attorney Bill Marler of Seattle law firm Marler Clark says the company should be commended for that action.
But he says three cases of foodborne illness in a few months shows Chipotle is not paying attention to food safety like it should.
Health officials who are investigating the cause of the outbreak believe it is likely connected with a fresh food product. Marler agrees.