Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is preparing to reopen 43 restaurants in the Pacific Northwest that have been closed for more than a week after an E. coli outbreak sickened dozens of customers.
No cause of the outbreak has been found and the restaurants in the Seattle and Portland, Oregon, areas will reopen this week, according to Chris Arnold, a spokesman for the company.
At least 15 people in Oregon and 27 in Washington state became ill after eating at Chipotle restaurants, according to health officials in the two states. Chipotle shuttered the locations in those areas more than a week ago as authorities investigated the E. coli outbreak. Chipotle will discard all of the food at the closed restaurants and clean the facilities before reopening, the company said Tuesday.
“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,” Steve Ells, co-chief executive officer of Chipotle, said in a statement. “It is our greatest priority to ensure that we go above and beyond to make certain that we find any opportunity to do better in any area of food safety.”
The shares rose 3.2 percent to close at $628.88 in New York, the biggest one-day gain since July 22. The Denver-based company’s shares have slipped 8.1 percent this year.
The Oregon Health Authority had advised Chipotle to throw out all of the food at its restaurants in the state and sanitize each facility before reopening the restaurants. Chipotle said last week it had hired food-safety consulting firms to investigate the outbreak and was “deep cleaning” the restaurants.
The E. coli scare follows a salmonella outbreak in Minnesota in September, when Chipotle restaurants were linked to dozens of infections. In that case, authorities identified tainted tomatoes as the source. One Chipotle location in California, meanwhile, saw about 80 customers sickened by an outbreak of norovirus over the summer.