Chipotle on Tuesday announced it would re-open its restaurants in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, after health officials concluded there was no ongoing risk following an earlier outbreak of E. coli.
Forty-two people in Washington and Oregon became sick, with most of them having eaten at a Chipotle restaurant between Oct. 14 and Oct. 24. Fourteen people became ill enough to require hospitalization.
Washington health officials said Monday they haven't determined what caused the E. coli outbreak, and the source of the bacteria may never be identified.
The company closed all its 43 stores in the area in response "out of an abundance of caution," despite the incident being limited to 11 restaurants.
In a statement on Tuesday, the company said all the restaurants it had voluntarily closed would reopen in the coming days with a "fresh supply of all new ingredients."
The company said it had conducted independent testing in its restaurants and distribution center, in addition to the testing carried out by government officials. No trace of the bacteria was found, Chipotle said.
“The safety of our customers and integrity of our food supply has always been our highest priority,” said Chipotle CEO Steve Ells in the statement. “If there are any opportunities for us to do better in any facet of our sourcing or food handling — from the farms to our restaurants — we will find them.
"We are sorry to those affected by this situation, and it is our greatest priority to ensure that we go above and beyond to make certain that we find any opportunity to do better in any area of food safety," he said.
Officials said the cause of the outbreak may not have been found because all of the contaminated food was eaten before the samples were taken.
The Washington State Department of Health has said before any of the stores reopen they must dispose of all their food, sanitize the facility, and bring in new food. Certain "high-risk" foods must be tested before being served, and fresh produce must be rinsed and sanitized.
County food safety inspectors will visit each resident to verify the new safeguards are in place, officials said.
In Oregon, two more cases of E. coli were found since last week.
Chipotle said it would implement additional safety procedures and audits in all of its 2,000 restaurants nationwide "to ensure that robust food safety measures are in place."
Claudia Koerner is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
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