Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurants in Washington could reopen Wednesday after officials failed to find a source for the E. coli outbreak linked to the chain’s Pacific Northwest outlets, state health officials said Monday. About 40 people in the country’s northwest contracted E. coli infection associated with Chipotle.
Washington state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said Monday that all the tests of food from Chipotle in Washington and Oregon came negative, according to the Associated Press (AP). The food chain, which gained prominence by promoting its use of healthy and high-quality ingredients, also reportedly conducted their own testing, and those results came back negative as well.
“Do I think the food is safe? I can’t answer whether the food is safe, but I can tell you I agree with all of the steps they are taking,” Lindquist reportedly said. “We have found no food with E. coli and there doesn’t appear to be an ongoing risk at this point.”
The restaurants will reportedly open after they have met conditions of replacing all produce and cleaning of their stores. They are also expected to start a new protocol for cleaning procedures, AP reported.
Lindquist reportedly said that he expects Chipotle will reopen the 43 restaurants it closed in Washington and Oregon by Wednesday or Thursday.
Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who has filed two lawsuits on behalf of people who fell sick in the outbreak, told AP that they can't take the blame off Chipotle just because health department officials have not found the cause of the outbreak.
Marler reportedly said that the outbreak brings to light that Chipotle has issues with food safety.
In recent months, Chipotle has faced other foodborne outbreaks.
Dozens fell ill in a salmonella outbreak linked to tomatoes at one of its outlets in Minnesota in August, AP reported, citing state health officials. The company has since switched tomato suppliers. In August, public health officials in California confirmed that norovirus affected nearly 100 customers and employees at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley.
"Clearly this is a Chipotle problem," Marler reportedly said.