Five more people have become sick after eating at two Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in Kansas and Oklahoma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The apparently ate food contaminated with a strain of E. coli bacteria called STEC O26, but what specific food was contaminated is not known.
The same bacteria sickened 53 people in eight other states, and nearly all who became ill say they ate at a Chipotle. This strain of bacteria is relatively rare.
Chipotle says it is working on ways to better monitor the safety of the food ingredients it uses, including using methods such as high-resolution testing and additional food-safety training for employees.
The latest outbreak of food-borne infection is the fifth linked to Chipotle since August, when more than 200 people were infected with norovirus after eating at one of its restaurants in Simi Valley, CA. That month more than 60 people became ill with salmonella poisoning after eating in Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota and cases of E. coli infections turned up in the Pacific Northwest in October. Almost 500 people have been sickened after eating in a Chipotle in the past six months, according to Food Safety News.
The founder and chief executive of Chipotle, Steve Ells, appeared on the "Today" show to apologize to the people who became sick after eating at the restaurants. "I'm sorry for the people who got sick. They're having a tough time and I feel terrible about that," Ells said.
"One of the challenges here has been that we have been able to identify the restaurants where people ate, but because of the way Chipotle does its record-keeping, we have been unable to figure out what food is in common across all those restaurants," said Dr. Ian Williams, chief of the outbreak response and prevention branch of the CDC in an interview with The New York Times.