Locations will have to implement new safety measures for produce before they re-open

By Alex Heigl
Updated November 10, 2015 03:55 PM
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It’s okay to eat at Chipotles in the Pacific Northwest again, food inspectors say.

Washington state health officials have found no cause for the outbreak of E. coli that closed 43 Chipotle restaurants across the region earlier this month, nor has the restaurant chain itself. Provided they meet a few conditions – like replacing all produce, performing a deep-clean of the stores, passing a local health inspection and implementing a new protocol for cleaning produce – the stores will be allowed to reopen.

Washington state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist told the Associated Press that all tests from stores in Washington and Oregon came back negative for E. coli, which the company’s internal testing confirmed as well.

About 40 people in the region have contracted E. coli in association with Chipotle. The most recent Washington patient reported eating at the chain on Oct. 24.

Jonathan Modie, an Oregon Health Authority spokesman, told the AP that food-borne illnesses are not easy to track to the source of the outbreak. “Finding the source of the outbreak is often like finding a needle in the haystack,” he explained.

Seattle attorney Bill Marler has filed two lawsuits on behalf of individuals sickened in this outbreak. He blames the food chain’s protocols, citing the fact that this outbreak is the third in the past few months. An outbreak of Salmonella linked to Chipotle tomatoes afflicted dozens of Minnesotans in August, and in California, health workers said norovirus plagued nearly 100 customers and employees at a Simi Valley Chipotle in the same month.

“Clearly this is a Chipotle problem,” Marler told the AP.