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Chipotle E. coli outbreak expands to three more states

The E. coli outbreak that is linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has expanded to three more states–Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maryland–and 47 of the 52 sick individuals say they ate at Chipotle before getting sick.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday added seven more E. coli cases in the U.S., four of which were linked to Chipotle. The burrito chain’s shares dropped as much as 5 percent before paring losses and were also down 2 percent at $552.91, Reuters reported.

Investigators added Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maryland on Friday. The other states on the list of Chipotle-linked E. coli outbreaks include Minnesota, California, Ohio, Oregon, New York and Washington.

Two of the newest reported illnesses began in October in Washington and Oregon, and five others began in November, according to Reuters. This suggests that the outbreak lasted longer than investigators thought.

Washington and Oregon hold most of the reported cases.

Investigators are still searching for the source of the E. coli O26 outbreak. They suspect a fresh produce item that was shipped from one location to several restaurants is the cause.

Chipotle said that thousands of food samples from restaurants linked to this outbreak have shown no trace of E. coli and that no ingredients that may have been linked to the outbreak remain in the chain’s supplies.

However, the fact that so many states have been involved in the outbreak likely means that the ingredient was nationally distributed.

On Friday, Chipotle announced that it would be adding a few new food-safety measures. One will include high-resolution testing of all fresh produce to detect the presence of pathogens before they’re shipped out to restaurants and another will be to boost employee training for safe food handling, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Chipotle prides itself on the use of local ingredients, which it defines as ingredients sourced or grown within 350 miles of the restaurant where they’re served. However, locally grown ingredients can only be served when in season, which is usually between June and October.

And local produce only makes up a small percentage of Chipotle’s produce, given ingredients like avocados, Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said.

“During the local season, we might get a high percentage of one or two or three ingredients in a given market–things like lettuce or peppers or herbs–from a local supplier, but not all produce would be locally grown even during the local season,” Arnold said.

Arnold also said that the company may not rely on local sourcing moving forward because the company’s local suppliers may not be able to meet their new food-safety requirements.

Not all of the new E. coli cases have been connected to Chipotle. Of the three most recent reported illnesses in November, only one person reported eating a burrito at Chipotle, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s important to note that, while these cases are newly reported, they are not really new, in that the exposure continues to be in the mid-October to early-November time frame, and they are just now making their way through the reporting process,” Arnold said.

About Meredith Rodefer

Meredith Rodefer
Meredith Rodefer is a freelance writer, who focuses on anything from lifestyle blogging to hard news, and dancer. Beyond Youth Independent, she has written for sites such as Natmonitor.com, CheekyChicago.com and FamilyFocusBlog.com. Contact Meredith: meredith.rodefer@youthindependent.com