The popularity of Chipotle Mexican Grill has skyrocketed over the past few years. The Denver-based food chain had been enjoying a surge of business thanks to its fast and fresh, preservative-free philosophies.
That is, until October of 2015. The food chain closed 43 restaurants in the Seattle, WA, and Portland, OR, markets due to an investigation of an E. coli outbreak.
Chipotle said they voluntarily closed the restaurants. The decision was made “out of an abundance of caution,” even though just 11 restaurants had been linked to the outbreak.
But the closures in the pacific north west weren’t enough. The CDC is tracking even more cases back to Chipotle restaurants in the Midwest, calling it a second wave of the E. coli outbreak.
The first wave affected at least nine states from California to New York, with more than 27 people sickened in the state of Washington alone. An article in the Denver Post says the outbreak has sickened more than 50 people and now the Food and Drug Administration is joining the effort to investigate exactly why so many illnesses are being traced back to Chipotle restaurants.
Five new cases of E. coli variants were found by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Kansas, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. Those in Kansas and Oklahoma who had fallen ill said they had recently eaten at a Chipotle restaurant.
Food poisoning caused by E. coli causes abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever.
So far, no Chipotle employees have reported any illnesses. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act stipulates that companies like Chipotle that have more than 50 employees have to offer health benefits and sick time to all workers, even those who work part time, should they be affected by the outbreak.
Some practices include submerging onions in boiling water to kill any germs prior to chopping them and marinating the raw chicken in individual plastic bags as opposed to bowls. The company, which prides itself on traditional cooking methods, will be taking a drastic turn from their original philosophies in the name of food safety.
Changing cooking methods may not be enough to win back the trust of their patrons. Chipotle is expected to take a hit in sales due to this outbreak, and analysts foresee a long road of recovery for Chipotle’s reputation.