The problem with the current outbreak may be the structural flaw within food handling processes of the restaurant chain’s business model.
Good News – Fortunately Shiga-toxin producing E. coli is possible to track through DNA source tracing. Meaning modern food safety officials actually have the capability to trace the specific DNA strain of E.Coli to the source; *qualifier: so long as the origin is field-based (farm) and not fork-based (poor food handling).
Bad News – Unfortunately the structural flaws inherent in behind-line buffet style food presentation are rife with cross-contamination risk. It would not be surprising to find this outbreak origin is not necessarily from product origination, but rather systemic poor personal hygiene and food safety handling in the retail stores – or a combination therein.
The most dangerous E.Coli outbreaks are not from direct animal proteins, they are from leaf crops, row crops and sprouts. Those can be traced to field origin where soil contamination (water, animal/human feces) is the root cause. Lesser frequent protein-based outbreaks are from beef or poultry, generally as an outcome of large scale processing defects/issues.
(Via New York Times) The Chipotle chain voluntarily shut down 43 restaurants in Washington State and Oregon over the weekend after health authorities began investigating an E. coli outbreak.
Health authorities are investigating 19 cases of illness related to the bacteria in Washington and three cases in Oregon, involving an unknown type of food. Eight people have been admitted to the hospital, officials said. No one has died.
“There have been links made to six restaurants in the Seattle and Portland areas,” said Chris Arnold, the communications director for Chipotle, in an emailed statement on Monday. “We have closed 43 restaurants in those markets out of an abundance of caution.”
The Oregon Health Authority said in a statement over the weekend that the infection affected people who ate at Chipotle outlets between Oct. 14 and 23.
“We believe that a food item is probably the cause of these infections but we don’t know at this time what food item that is,” said Marisa D’Angeli, medical epidemiologist with the Washington State Department of Health, according to The Associated Press.
E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals, but some strains can cause illness and in some cases, death.
Infections start when a person swallows tiny amounts of human or animal feces, often from swimming in a lake, petting an animal, or eating food prepared by people who did not wash their hands after using the restroom. (read more)