Chipotle Hires Safety Consultants to Cope With Health Scare

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., which closed 43 restaurants over the weekend after an E. coli outbreak, has hired food-safety consulting firms and is testing ingredients in an effort to defuse the health scare.

After shutting restaurants in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, Chipotle is doing a deep cleaning of the locations, the company said in a statement Tuesday. Twelve people in the Portland area and 25 in Washington state became ill after eating at Chipotle restaurants, according to health officials in the two states. There have been no deaths, but at least 12 of those affected have been hospitalized.

Health officials haven’t yet found a cause of the outbreak, Denver-based Chipotle said on Tuesday. The company said it continues to work with authorities. Only eight of the shuttered restaurants have drawn concern, but it closed the others “out of an abundance of caution,” Chipotle said.

The company is working with Seattle-based IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group to resolve the matter, as well as conducting environmental testing in restaurants and distribution centers. Chipotle also is replacing all the food in the closed locations.

“We work with a number of very fresh ingredients in order to serve our customers the highest-quality, best-tasting food we can,” co-Chief Executive Officer Steve Ells said in the statement. “If there are opportunities to do better, we will push ourselves to find them and enhance our already high standards for food safety. Our deepest sympathies go out to those who have been affected by this situation and it is our greatest priority to ensure the safety of all of the food we serve and maintain our customers’ confidence in eating at Chipotle.”

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