Chipotle E. coli Outbreak Lawsuits - Multistate (2015)


The CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and public health officials in several states investigated two outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26 (STEC O26) infections. Summaries of the two outbreaks are provided in more detail below.  

Initial, Larger Outbreak     

The initial, larger outbreak was first detected by public health officials in Washington and Oregon through local foodborne disease surveillance. In late October 2015, officials in those states detected an increase in illness and after interviewing ill people, they determined that illness was likely linked to eating at multiple Chipotle Mexican Grill locations.

PFGE results from ill people in Washington and Oregon indicated that people were infected with a rare strain of STEC O26. A search of the PulseNet database identified illnesses in other states, and these ill people were added to the total case count.

A total of 55 people infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O26 were reported from 11 states. The majority of illnesses were reported from Washington and Oregon during October 2015. The number of ill people reported from each state was as follows: California (3), Delaware (1), Illinois (1), Kentucky (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (2), and Washington (27).  

Among people for whom information was available, illnesses started on dates ranging from October 19, 2015 to December 1, 2015. Ill people ranged in age from 1 year to 94, with a median age of 21. Fifty-seven percent of ill people were female. Twenty-one people reported being hospitalized.  

WGS was performed on 36 STEC O26 isolates from ill people in this outbreak, including isolates from ill people in states outside the Pacific Northwest. All 36 isolates were highly related genetically. This provided additional evidence that illnesses outside the Pacific Northwest were related to the earlier illnesses in Oregon and Washington.  

Second, Smaller Outbreak     

In December 2015, a second outbreak of a different, rare strain of STEC O26 was identified. A total of five people infected with this strain of STEC O26 were reported from three states. The number of ill people reported from each state was as follows: Kansas (1), North Dakota (1), and Oklahoma (3).  

Among people for whom information was available, illnesses started on dates ranging from November 18, 2015 to November 26, 2015. Ill people ranged in age from 6 years to 25, with a median age of 22. Eighty percent of ill people were female. One person reported being hospitalized.  

WGS was performed on four STEC O26 isolates from ill people in this outbreak. All four isolates were highly related genetically to each other, but they were not related to isolates from ill people in the initial, larger outbreak.  

Investigation of the Outbreaks  

The epidemiologic evidence collected during these investigations suggested that a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants was a likely source of both outbreaks. The investigations did not identify a specific food or ingredient linked to illness in either outbreak.

Marler Clark represented 88 individuals affected by the outbreak, achieving settlements covering medical expenses, wage loss, and pain and suffering.