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CDC Declares Chipotle E. Coli Outbreak Over

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the latest E. coli outbreak at Chipotle Mexican Grill over on Feb. 1, two months after the last person fell ill.

Two E. coli outbreaks hit the chain in 2015, including one that spread across 11 states and sickened 55 people, CNBC reported.

“We are pleased that the CDC has concluded its investigation and we have offered our full cooperation throughout,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said in a statement, CNBC reported. “Over the past few months we have taken significant steps to improve the safety of all of the food we serve, and we are confident that the changes we have made mean that every item on our menu is delicious and safe.”

The company dealt with six incidences of foodborne illnesses at its outlets in 2015, including E. coli, salmonella and norovirus outbreaks. Its sales fell by 30 percent in December.

“What our research tells us is that Chipotle has a strong loyal base from which to build its business back up relatively quickly,” restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs told CNBC. “To win back the trust of their former customers, Chipotle will need to continually communicate all of the ways in which they are preventing any future outbreaks and prove to them that they able to deliver on their ‘food with integrity’ promise.”

Chipotle has announced changes to several procedures, such as the centralization of tomato and lettuce chopping operations. Stores will be closed Feb. 8 to allow all employees to meet and discuss the changes.

The company faces several lawsuits related to the outbreaks.

A suit filed in January on behalf of six students and a cheerleading coach, who ate at a Simi Valley, California, outlet in August, alleges Chipotle covered up a foodborne illness outbreak, according to ThinkProgress.

A kitchen manager was allegedly allowed to continue working and handle food two days after displaying gastrointestinal symptoms of norovirus.

Chipotle launched the “Norwalk protocol,” which aimed to prevent to stop the spread of the norovirus. But the company failed to report the potential outbreak to the local health department, the suit claimed.

Instead, it told customers the store was closed because of a staffing shortage. When the Ventura County Health Department arrived two days later, inspectors could not carry out an investigation because all equipment had been cleaned.

Nearly 300 people reported being sickened after eating at the Chipotle branch, reports ThinkProgress.

Sources: CNBC, ThinkProgress / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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