One of the most terrifying things that could occur in the Collegiate community transpired in early October: Escherichia Coli (E. Coli) infections were linked to seven Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurants. According to their website, Chipotle says that they are “aggressively taking actions to implement industry leading food safety and food handling practices in all of its restaurants and throughout its supply chain.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that there have been a total of 52 cases and 20 hospitalizations, due to the most recent Chipotle outbreak, only 47 of the which reportedly ate Chipotle before becoming sick, as specified by the CDC. This outbreak is due to a strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli O26, also known as STEC O26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The STEC is the type of E. Coli variant that is most commonly heard about in the news in association with foodborne outbreaks. E. Coli are bacteria that are frequently found in the environment and the intestines of people and animals. Although some strains of E. Coli appear harmless, others can make you extremely sick. Different kinds of E. Coli can cause diarrhea, pneumonia, respiratory illnesses, and even urinary tract infections. While the outbreak was originally limited to Washington state and Oregon, investigators have reported that it has spread to restaurants on the East Coast. The disease has reached nine different states: Oregon, Washington, California, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
The infection unfortunately continues to spread and reach new states. As of Monday, December 7th, the disease has now reached a Chipotle located in Boston, Massachusetts. Numerous Boston College basketball players are among 30 students who became sick after eating at Chipotle in Cleveland Circle, reported CNN. The company stated that sales, due to events such as the one in Boston, have declined in recent weeks by as much as 22 percent and could decrease by eight more percent as reported by U.S. News.
To prevent the further decline of sales, Chipotle has recently hired a California-based consulting firm known as IEH Laboratories to conduct testing on the company’s produce, evaluate its ingredients, and improve employee training on how to handle the food. The firm is helping Chipotle develop a better sense of the relationship between contaminated foods and illness, which supports food safety along the entire line of production, from the fields where food is grown to the kitchen counters where it is prepared. While developing a better sense of their food and how it could be contaminated, the company is testing each of its ingredients to see which one has caused E. Coli.
Chipotle has stated that none of its food sample tests have come back positive for the disease and the CDC has yet to determine which menu item is the source of the outbreak. However, Chipotle has responded by hiring government investigators and has made it their main goal to determine the source of this illness. The company has also decided to make its food safety measures more strict. On December 4th, the company announced that it would implement high quality testing for all produce before shipping it to restaurants, according to The Wall Street Journal. Although each case has a distinct DNA signature, no ingredient or supplier has been identified as responsible for the contamination.
Despite this uncertainty, the Collegiate community and its love for Chipotle remains unchanged. As I walk through the hallway students appear to be their usual stressed out, holding a 40 to 45 pound backpack, selves. My question is, where will we eat now? While the threat of food-borne illness in one of Collegiates favorite restaurants continues to grow, numerous students are willing to take such a risk for a beautifully foil-wrapped burrito.
Olivia Jacobs (‘17) said, “I will continue to go eat there because Chipotle is #bae and I will never stop lovin’ it.” It appears that a disease such as E. Coli is too weak to affect such a burrito loving environment. Kate Kinder (‘17) put it best by saying, “Not eating Chipotle because you might get E. Coli is like not going to the beach because you might get sunburned. So if you wanna eat Chipotle, do it, because I mean risk it for the biscuit.”
Featured image: chipotle.com