Chipotle announced this morning that it was reopening 43 stores in Oregon and Washington after health authorities said the risk of future E.coli contaminations in the area has passed.
Although authorities never found the potentially lethal form of the bacteria in any of the stores, Chipotle voluntarily shut the restaurants because victims had eaten in one of 11 units in the area. Forty-two people were sickened in total. Early reports indicated that not all had frequented a Chipotle.
None of the victims had been employed in the restaurants.
The source of the outbreak remains a mystery.
Chipotle said that all foods in the 43 restaurants had been discarded and replaced with fresh supplies that tested negatively for E.coli 0157:H7. In addition, the units have been sanitized and “deep cleaned,” according to the company.
It noted that authorities were working with the units to improve certain food-handling practices, but Chipotle did not divulge details.
The fast-casual operator said it had also stepped up the testing for E.coli outside of the affected area, and had audited the safety practices in all 2,000 of its domestic stores.
Analysts had estimated that the closed restaurants represented about 2 percent of Chipotle’s units, all of which are operated by the company.