Chipotle Mexican Grill closed 43 restaurants in Seattle and Portland after more than 20 people fell ill from E. coli over a two-week period. Six of the shuttered restaurants were linked to illnesses, which causes abdominal cramping, and severe and occasionally bloody diarrhea.
The E. coli outbreak comes just two months after tomatoes at the restaurants were linked to dozens of diarrhea-causing salmonella infections in Minnesota, and a few months after a single Chipotle location in California was blamed for infecting nearly 100 customers with norovirus, the so-called vomiting bug.
Chipotle restaurant chains boast simple, unprocessed ingredients that they say their competitors do not offer. But news of yet another food borne illness outbreak has bruised Chipotle’s reputation. The company’s stock dropped $31.71 to $608.52 on Monday, lowering its market value about $1 billion.
The latest outbreak sickened three people in Portland and 19 in Washington state since Oct. 14. No deaths were reported but at least seven of those infected were hospitalized. Health care professionals believe the illness were caused by the Shiga toxin of E. coli, a rather potent strain that causes severe symptoms in humans.
Chipotle officials say they do not know when the Portland and Seattle restaurants will reopen. The timing of that will be determined after the source of the infection is identified, Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesman, told Bloomberg. “Right now, it is our priority to work through that process with health department officials.”