Chipotle Mexican Grill officials were waiting on test results Monday before determining when to reopen 43 restaurants in Washington and Oregon after an outbreak of E. coli-related foodborne illness resulted in temporary closures over the weekend, health officials said.
Officials with the 1,931-unit, Denver-based operator voluntarily closed the restaurants on Saturday and Sunday after at least 22 people became sick, including 19 in Washington and three in the Portland, Ore., area, according to health officials.
About one third of those reported sick have been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
In a statement, Washington State Department of Health officials said the outbreak appears to be linked to food served at Chipotle restaurants, but the specific food or other source of contamination had not been determined as of Saturday and remained under investigation.
“Anyone who thinks they may have become ill from eating at a Chipotle restaurant in the past three weeks should consult their healthcare provider,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington State epidemiologist. “The elderly and very young children are more likely to become severely ill from this kind of E. coli infection.”
On Monday morning, a spokeswoman for the department said Chipotle officials were waiting on the results of tests as part of the investigation before making a decision to reopen.
Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said Sunday that only six restaurants were implicated in the investigation, but the company decided to close 43 units in two states out of an abundance of caution. He did not respond to questions about when the restaurants would reopen.
“The safety and wellbeing of our customers is always our highest priority,” Arnold said in a statement. “We are working with health department officials to determine the cause of this issue. We offer our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by this situation.”
The latest incident marks the third outbreak of foodborne illness for Chipotle since August.
In September, an outbreak of salmonella Newport infection was linked to fresh produce served at Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota. Health officials later identified tomatoes as the source, with a total of 64 cases reported. Chipotle switched suppliers for its tomatoes and removed the product from restaurants.
An outbreak of norovirus was linked to a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley, Calif., in August.