Chipotle Still Doesn’t Know Which Ingredient Caused E. Coli Contamination In 8 Restaurants

While Chipotle continues to deep-clean its restaurants in the Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas after an E. coli outbreak that has now sickened 39 people, the company and public health authorities are still working to find a common link between what all of the infected people ate. They may never find the exact cause: some foodborne illness outbreaks remain unsolved.

So far, they think that the pathogen got into the food and into customers through a vegetable, but they haven’t been able to connect that vegetable to all of the diners yet.

I learned last year while attempting to report food poisoning from a restaurant that there isn’t much that your local authorities can do if you didn’t visit a doctor’s office or hospital during your illness so they could take samples. (Yes, we mean blood and feces.) If you’ve eaten at one of the affected restaurants and come down with symptoms up to 10 days later, check with your doctor and make sure that you mention this specific outbreak.

It’s hard to get away for a trip to the doctor when bloody diarrhea is keeping you busy, since that’s a basic symptom of E. coli infection. The actual number of illnesses is probably much higher, but people who weren’t sick enough to go see a doctor most likely won’t be counted in the official figures.

The youngest victim identified so far has been five years old, but the strain in this outbreak is a different one from the strain that affected Jack in the Box restaurants decades ago, causing kidney problems in small children that were sometimes deadly. That can be a result of E. coli infections in general, but this strain hasn’t made any kids sick. Yet.

Chipotle’s E. coli outbreak threatens sales, emboldens critics [Reuters]
Oregon cases of E. coli linked to Chipotle now at 12

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.