The Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle is reopening the 43 Pacific Northwest restaurants that the company shut down after an outbreak of E. coli started. The restaurants have been tested and found negative for the bacteria.
Chipotle will reopen the restaurants in Washington and Oregon after giving them all a deep cleaning. The restaurants will be resupplied with a fresh supply of ingredients, the company said. Chipotle will test the new food supplies prior to restocking and is instituting additional safety procedures, safety standards, and audits in each of its 2,000 restaurants.
"The safety of our customers and integrity of our food supply has always been our highest priority," said company chairman Steve Ells in a statement. "If there are any opportunities for us to do better in any facet of our sourcing or food handling - from the farms to our restaurants - we will find them." Ells apologized to all who were affected by the outbreak.
Health officials have not found the source of the bacterial outbreak that started last month but concluded there is no ongoing risk of contracting the illness that has sickened about 40 people.
The outbreak was traced to 11 Chipotle restaurants in Oregon and Washington, but the company closed 43 locations in Seattle and Portland as a precaution. It conducted additional sanitization measures in its restaurants nationwide and confirmed that none of its workers were carriers of the E. coli bacteria.
People typically start to show symptoms of E. coli about three to four days after being exposed, but this can take as long as 10 days. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting. E. coli bacteria can be spread through contaminated water or improperly cured compost.
Chipotle is facing lawsuits over the outbreak. More than 40 people are known to have been sickened during the outbreak.