How Does E. Coli Get Into Your Burrito?

A rash of e. coli cases at Chipotle restaurants in the Pacific Northwest raises questions about food safety.

By Hady MawajdehNovember 5, 2015 3:01 pm

Die-hard burrito fans, listen up. America’s newest fast food darling – Chipotle – has been making headlines this week because food poisoning traced to e. coli has sickened 39 people in Oregon and Washington state.

But this isn’t the only time e. coli and other food-borne illness has caused issues. Remember the 1992 scandal with Jack in the Box? Or, just last month, when a Texas woman died after eating a tainted cucumber? The number of cases may increase during the investigation, according to e. coli expert Dr. Alfreo Torres, from the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Torres says in the 1980s, a strain of e. coli was linked to undercooked beef but changes in USDA and FDA regulations made meats in general safer to eat. Now e. coli outbreaks are more common in produce, like spinach and lettuce. Chipotle recently had an outbreak of e. coli cases at restaurants in Oregon and Washington state.

“Sometimes these large companies buy in bulk from different places,” Torres says. “If one of these products that are used for the fresh salsa was contaminated and they were distributed to several restaurants in the area, there’s a high chance that that particular product was the source of contamination.”

Listen to the full audio player above.