Chipotle Food Poisoning Lawsuits Filed Over E. Coli Outbreak in Washington, Oregon

A growing number of food poisoning lawsuits have been filed against Chipotle on behalf of individuals from Washington and Oregon who were impacted by an E. coli outbreak linked to the Mexican food chain, as more individuals sickened continue to be identified. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an update on the E coli O26 outbreak on November 9, indicating that at least 42 illnesses have been reported from the two states.

More than half of the reported cases have been confirmed to involve the Shiga-toxin producing strain of E. coli, which has the same DNA fingerprint, linked to customers at several Chipotle Mexican Grill locations in Washington and Oregon.

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While there have been no confirmed deaths or cases of the severe E. coli complication hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), the illnesses have involved extremely painful stomach cramping and bowel irritation, with at least 14 cases requiring hospitalization.

According to the CDC, the number of E. coli infections linked to the strain has nearly doubling since October 31, when Washington and Oregon public health officials first issued warnings about an Chipotle food poisoning outbreak, which resulted in the the chain quickly closing 43 of its Washington and Oregon based restaurants.

Chipotle’s co-CEO, Steve Ells, stated in a press release Tuesday that all Pacific Northwest restaurants in Oregon and Washington will re-open in the coming days with fresh supplies of all ingredients.

All of the restaurants have reportedly undergone deep cleaning and sterilization processes under the supervision of local, state, and federal health departments. Furthermore, Ells announced that he has called in two consulting firms to help asses and improve the chains food safety standards to prevent further outbreaks.

Several food poisoning lawsuits have been filed against Chipotle throughout the districts, claiming the restaurant is responsible for damages their patrons suffered.

The first lawsuit was filed in federal court on Monday by Denise Mode, a pharmacist from Kelso, Washington. Her lawsuit claims damages of at least $75,000 alleging she ate a burrito bowl on October 21 from Chipotle and started feeling nauseated just four days later before having to endure a painful rectal examination at the hospital. Mode’s complaint indicates that she is prepared to ask for more than the previously mentioned amount of damages once the long term health concerns are identified and considered.

Several other lawsuits have been filed, including one from Jessica Ellis of Mount Vernon, Washington and Chris Collins of Lake Oswego, Oregon, who both reported eating chicken burrito bowls with several produce ingredients before falling ill just days later. Collins reported the infection caused him to miss nearly two weeks of work and Ellis reportedly missed six days of work and had to cancel a Hawaiian vacation due to her hospital stay.

At least a dozen other lawsuits are being considered at this time, according to NBC News, including two on behalf of an 8 and 14 year old child who were both hospitalized at a Seattle based children’s hospital.

The origin of the outbreak is still under investigation, and maybe difficult to confirm since the product is most likely no longer in inventory, as the first infection dates back toward the beginning of October.

Oregon State Health Officer Katrina Hedburg stated that investigating officials believe the strain is E. coli O26 and was brought into the restaurants from some type of fresh produce such as lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, or cilantro.

Washington state epidemiologist Scott Lindquist supported Hedburg’s beliefs adding that researchers have identified the E. coli O26 fingerprint in 17 of the cases with many more samples needed to further conclude the source.

it is possible that the source of the outbreak may be linked to a farm or food distributor that specifically serves the Pacific Northwest, according to Hedburg.


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