Chipotle has been praised this week after it decided to close down all of its restaurants in Washington and Oregon, following a sudden outbreak of virulent E-coli.
At least 37 people who ate at the popular restaurant chain became sick, although researchers are not sure if those illnesses were related to a single breakout.
“We don’t yet know of a vehicle, what food caused it, or even with certainty that all of the cases that are identified there are related to each other,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters.
“We do know that Chipotle has closed many of its restaurants until more information is available,” he added.
Chipotle said last week that it had closed 43 locations in Washington and Oregon after 22 people became sick with a virulent type of E. coli infection.
“I think it is always better to take a broad action than to narrow it down. They are being very responsible in their actions,” Frieden said.
Dr. Kathleen Gensheimer of the Food and Drug Administration says her agency spoke with Chipotle’s senior management over the weekend.
“We have not yet identified any specific food. Nevertheless, Chipotle is sharing all their records with us, working with us in any way possible to get us information about their suppliers,” Gensheimer said. She says Chipotle approached federal workers in order to determine which of their practices may be causing the outbreak.
In its report, CDC said it found that outbreaks of foodborne illness mostly happen at the local level.
“The leading causes of multistate outbreaks — Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria — are more dangerous than the leading causes of single-state outbreaks,” the CDC said in a statement.
“These three germs, which cause 91 percent of multistate outbreaks, can contaminate widely distributed foods, such as vegetables, beef, chicken and fresh fruits, and end up sickening people in many states.”
Local outbreaks are more likely to be caused by norovirus, which is common and not usually deadly, the CDC said.
“Multistate outbreaks have much more serious health effects than other foodborne outbreaks. The reason: the germs that cause most of the multistate outbreaks are deadlier,” Frieden said.