DENVER, Colorado – Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania are the three new states where the E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has expanded, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday.

Chipotle informed that shares have dropped 8 percent to $518 in extending trade, warning that sales could tumble 8 to 11 percent for the fourth quarter from a year earlier. This is worse than what analysts had been anticipating and would mark the first mayor decline in Chipotle’s history.

Photo: Wikipedia.
The Denver-based company announced on Friday it would start tightening their food safety practices now that they have consulted with experts. Photo: Wikipedia.

Since the end of October, most of the illnesses have been reported in Oregon and Washington, but additional cases have spread to California, Minnesota, New York and Ohio, with a total of nine states and 52 patients confirmed. Those who contracted food poisoning got sickened between October 19 to November 13 and twenty of them were hospitalized, as made known by the CDC. Of all 52 people infected, 47 reported having eaten at a Chipotle restaurant the week before the symptoms appeared.

While the source of the outbreak remains unknown, investigators believe that a fresh produce ingredient might have been shipped from one location to several restaurants across the country. The CDC explained that investigators are studying the sequence of the bacterial DNA of the E. coli strain in order to find out where the epidemic comes from.

“Chipotle’s enhanced food safety program is the product of a comprehensive reassessment of our food safety practices conducted with IEH Laboratories that included a farm-to-fork assessment of each ingredient we use with an eye toward establishing the highest standards for safety,” Chipotle wrote in a statement published on its Facebook page.

The bacterial illness exhibits symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Most of E. coli bacteria strains are harmless, but few can cause infection and several problems. Health officials from the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that people should always wash their hands meticulously with soap in order to prevent the disease. They also recommend to avoid raw milk, make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked before eating and try not to swallow water from lakes or pools. Food preparation areas should be very clean.

Anyone who suspects they may have become ill from eating at the Mexican restaurant in the past few weeks should consult their doctor, according to Dr. Scott Lindquist from the Washington State Department of Health. Lindquist presumes that the elderly and very young children are more likely to suffer serious consequences from this kind of E. coli infection.

There is an increasing tendency among restaurants to use fresher, unprocessed food. Although it may be good for nutrition, experts affirm it raises the risk of foodborne illness, since cooking kills pathogens that cause illness, according to a Reuters’s report.

Bill Marler of Seattle law firm Marler Clark commented that people should not totally rely on a company that uses only local and fresh ingredients, since it is not immune from food safety issues. He suggested that, given the magnitude of the epidemic, Chipotle has not been attended the issue the way it should have.

Source: Reuters