E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle expands

E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle expands

NEW YORK (AP) — An outbreak of E. coli linked to Chipotle has expanded to nine states, with a total of 52 reported illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention said Friday seven additional people were sickened, including in three more states — Illinois, Maryland & Pennsylvania. The most recent illness started on Nov. 13, it said.

The majority of the illnesses have been in Oregon & Washington, where cases were initially reported at the end of October. Additional cases were after reported in California, Minnesota, New York & Ohio.

p>The CDC had said in late November that additional cases could be reported for illnesses that started after Oct. 31. On Friday, it said illnesses that started after Nov. 11 may not be reported yet.

Of the 52 people infected, the CDC says 47 reported eating at a Chipotle restaurant the week before the illness started. The agency has not yet determined the ingredient that made people sick.

Earlier Friday, Chipotle said it was tightening its food safety standards.

The Denver-based chain known for touting the quality of its ingredients said it hired IEH Laboratories in Seattle to assist improve its procedures. It said it will implement testing of all produce before it is shipped to restaurants & enhance employee training for food safety & handling.

Chipotle has not yet said how sales have been affected by the offensive publicity from the outbreak, yet plans to provide a financial update before a presentation for analysts & investors Tuesday. In October, the company had forecast sales at established locations would be up in the low- to mid-single digit percentages for 2015.

The company's shares fell 2.7 percent to $550.25 in trading Friday afternoon.

Chipotle said it tested ingredients before, yet that it is moving to testing smaller batches & a larger number of samples.

"In testing for pathogens, in many ways you're looking for needles in haystacks. Through this high resolution testing program, we are making the haystacks smaller by working with smaller lots," the company said.

It said that no ingredients that are likely to have been connected to the incident remain in its restaurants or supply system.

Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., said the company's local produce suppliers may not all be able to meet the new standards. The company noted that its local produce program accounts for a "relatively small percentage" of the produce it uses, & only runs from around June through October in most parts of the country.

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Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi

Source: “Associated Press”