Is It Safe to Eat Chipotle Again? What the CDC Has to Say About the E. Coli Outbreak

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Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the E. coli outbreak that plagued multiple Chipotle restaurants over. Since October, more than 50 people across the nation, with the majority of cases in Washington and Oregon, contracted E. coli, salmonella or norovirus after eating at a Chipotle. The first outbreak infected 55 people, and a second outbreak infected only five.

However, the CDC were not able to pinpoint the direct source of the outbreaks. "Most ill people in these outbreaks ate many of the same food items at a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant," the CDC wrote in their latest update regarding the Chipotle crisis. "When a restaurant serves foods with several ingredients that are mixed or cooked together and then used in multiple menu items, it can be more difficult for epidemiologic studies to identify the specific ingredient that is contaminated."

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Chipotle, which cooperated with the federal criminal probe issued to investigate the restaurant chain, has told customers that the food is safe to eat once again. 

"We are pleased that the CDC has concluded its investigation, and we have offered our full cooperation throughout," Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told USA Today. "Over the past few months we have taken significant steps to improve the safety of all of the food we serve, and we are confident that the changes we have made mean that every item on our menu is delicious and safe."

On Monday, all Chipotle restaurants across the country closed their doors for an "employee meeting." The meeting, which discussed food safety changes, promised testing for all ingredients and enhanced training for its employees. All restaurants reopened on Monday at 3 p.m.

"Throughout our supply chain, we are implementing high-resolution sampling and testing of many of our ingredients to prevent contaminants, including E. coli, from getting into our restaurants," Chipotle founder Steve Ells wrote on the official website. "Testing of this kind is unprecedented in the restaurant industry because of the large number of samples tested. We are also working with our supplier partners to further enhance their food safety programs."

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Some believe that the outbreak may have made Chipotle a safer place to eat than any other restaurant chain in the nation. "Chipotle may now be paradoxically among the safest places to eat in this country," William Schaffner, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told Slate. "Would I eat in Chipotle this afternoon if I were invited to lunch? Yes."

But to avoid foodborne diseases all together, the best option may be to not go to any restaurant chain anywhere. As one of the most contagious diseases that can be spread from an infected restaurant worker, norovirus is responsible for 19 to 21 million illnesses a year, according to the CDC

So is it safe to eat at Chipotle again? According to the CDC and Chipotle Mexican Grill, the answer appears to be yes.