WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked five new cases of E. coli to multiple Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma, striking another blow to the company already reeling from an outbreak of foodborne illnesses.
The CDC said Monday three people ate at an Oklahoma location and one each in Kansas and North Dakota locations. Their symptoms began between Nov. 18 and Nov. 26, within a week of eating food from Chipotle. The CDC said the five cases have a different DNA strain of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli than the strain found to have caused 53 cases in nine states since October.
"One of the challenges here has been that we have been able to identify the restaurants where people ate, but because of the way Chipotle does its record-keeping, we have been unable to figure out what food is in common across all those restaurants," said Dr. Ian Williams, chief of the outbreak response and prevention branch of the CDC.
The CDC said it is working to determine the cause of the latest outbreak, but said the geographic diversity in the cases suggests they do not share a common source. No single food item has been identified as the cause.
"We have indicated before that we expected that we may see additional cases stemming from this, and the CDC is now reporting some additional cases. Since this issue began, we have completed a comprehensive reassessment of our food safety programs with an eye to finding best practices for each of the ingredients we use. We are now in the process of implementing those programs," Chipotle Communications Director Chris Arnold said.
In total, nearly 500 people have been sickened after two Chipotle-related E.coli and norovirus outbreaks since this past summer.