Food Safety Concept

The fast food burrito chain, Chipotle, shut down 43 of its stores in the Pacific Northwest after a foodborne illness infected approximately 24 people in the region. The incident has stirred up a lot of scrutiny as to whether the restaurant is using fresh ingredients like it claims to be. This is the third instance of foodborne illnesses at Chipotle restaurants this year.

The sicknesses involved E. coli bacteria, which caused 19 customers in western Washington and three customers in Portland to fall ill. Seventeen of these individuals reported eating Chipotle food within the last few weeks. The illnesses resulted in eight of the victims being hospitalized, but there have not been any fatalities, fortunately.

Other Chipotle Foodborne Illness Cases This Year

In early August, some salmonella-infested tomatoes at a Chipotle restaurant in Minnesota caused dozens of customers to become ill. In mid-August, a norovirus outbreak at a Chipotle caused almost 100 employees and customers to fall ill.

According to a food safety lawyer in Seattle, having three issues crop up within a couple months of each other is a sign that Chipotle is not doing enough to keep its food safety levels up to par. In most cases where foodborne illness is a problem, the lawyer said that the problem is poor food safety. The lawyer said that even though the chain espouses to use fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, it does not mean that it is safer.

In fact, health officials suspect that the food contamination at Chipotle may be linked to the fresh produce it uses at its restaurant.

6 Restaurants Directly Linked to the Outbreak

Six restaurants in Oregon and Washington have been isolated in the most recent food illness outbreak. However, a company spokesperson said that they closed 43 restaurants in these states "out of an abundance of caution." As for when these locations will be reopened, the company spokesperson said that it will depend on what they find in their investigations.

In the meantime, the people who were sickened -- especially those who were hospitalized -- as result of eating bad food at Chipotle, may wish to file personal injury claims relating to their injuries. If successfully navigated, such a claim could bring them compensation for the costs associated with their medical care and time spent unable to work.