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Chipotle: A Case of Food Poisoning That Seems to Never Find an End

One of the most popular casual restaurants in the country has recently been in the spotlight in recent news over the past few weeks. However, the spotlight has not been a positive one. Chipotle Mexican Grill has been the focus of attention for a case of food poisoning that has not only affected a high volume of people, but has also been extended in length with no solution as of yet.

An article by Forbes discusses the recent outbreak of food poisoning and the popular restaurant’s negative criticisms. For instance, this past month, approximately 140 people mainly from Boston College, were recovering from a serious case of norovirus-caused gastroenteritis. The foodborne illness stemmed from eating Chipotle’s meat and produce.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been tracking this outbreak, which has shown to be widespread throughout the country. There have been incidents of Chipotle food poisoning in California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. While we have previously blogged about how in many instances those most vulnerable to foodborne illnesses are the very young, very old, or those with weakened immune systems, this outbreak has been so significant that it has impacted people all across the board in age. According to the same article, the victims have ranged in age from one year old through 94.

Recently, the CDC identified that the outbreak was E. coli strain STEC O26. This has been found in all victims who have been tested. Understandably, many of us may not have realized that there are different strains of E. coli that has different effects. According to the CDC, most information about E.coli has come from studying the O157 infection. The non-O157 groups are less likely to cause severe illness, but they still can, such as in this Chipotle outbreak. The O26 group produces the same type of toxins that E. coli O157 produces, and causes similar illness. Symptoms vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. The infections start when someone swallows STEC, meaning when they consume small, often invisible, amounts of human or animal feces – often from contaminated food. In a restaurant setting, this should be preventable with proper safety and cleanliness policies surrounding food storage and preparation and employee behavior.

However, while this outbreak may be receiving the most notoriety and attention for its seriousness, Chipotle’s food safety negligence is not a new topic. This is actually the fifth case of food poisoning. One case was not even disclosed to the public. In addition, the pathogens that have been the cause of food poisoning have all been unrelated. There have been instances of salmonella, E. coli, and norovirus. What this means is that there has not been just one instance of negligence to safety, but many times in which Chipotle has ignored its legal duty of care to not harm its customers. By repeatedly putting people in harm’s way with food poisoning, Chipotle has not rectified its ways, but instead has chosen to continue to act in the same fashion and with the same behavior that is an endangerment to people’s health and safety.