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BREAKING: Cause of Ohio Chipotle outbreak identified

At least 647 people that fell ill after eating at an Ohio Chipotle last month now have answers — their illnesses were caused by a foodborne disease resulting from food being stored at unsafe temperatures.

After local lab tests on food and stool samples came back negative for any potential pathogens, the Delaware County Health District sent more samples to the CDC to be tested.

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While the food samples tested negative for C. perfringens bacteria, the stool samples revealed the toxin that C. perfringens forms in the gastrointestinal tract. C. perfringens occurs when foods aren’t kept at the correct temperatures.

The CDC will continue to test the samples to narrow down the results to a specific food item that may have caused the illnesses.

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In a health inspection July 31, the Chipotle restaurant corrected one critical and one-non critical violation related to pinto beans and lettuce not being kept at correct temperatures. The restaurant threw all of its food away as well before reopening, said Traci Whittaker, spokeswoman for the Delaware County Health District.

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There haven’t been any issues reported since the corrections, but more than 700 inquiries were made to the Delaware County Health District about illnesses, and the district then identified 647 people who self-reported gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming food from the Chipotle on Sawmill Parkway between July 26 and July 30.

“This investigation included countless hours of phone calls and interviews along with multiple inspections. We are also appreciative of our community for being very cooperative during this investigation and for understanding our work in protecting the public’s health,” said Delaware County health commissioner Shelia Hiddleson.

Chipotle field leadership also is retraining all restaurant employees nationwide, said Brian Niccol, CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill.

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