Ohio county health department reports 518 inquires tied to potential Chipotle outbreak

The number of potential customers that were affected by a food borne illness outbreak at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Ohio may be much higher than initially believed.

The Delaware General Health District said Wednesday that it had received a total of 518 inquiries — 95 emails and 423 calls — related to a possible outbreak stemming from a Chipotle in Powell, Ohio.

So far, staff at the local health department has been able to interview more than 200 people who self-reported nausea, diarrhea and fever, among other symptoms, after eating at the restaurant. In addition fecal and food samples have been delivered to the Ohio Department of Health for laboratory testing.

The health department said it will be testing for salmonella, shigella, E. coli, and norovirus in both samples. The food samples will also be tested for bacillus cereus and clostridium perfringens, two bacteria that can cause the symptoms that have been reported.

Laurie Schalow, a spokeswoman for Chipotle, declined to comment.

Chipotle is not the only restaurant to face food safety issues. McDonald’s recently recalled salads at about 3,000 of its U.S. restaurants due to an outbreak of cyclosporiasis tied back to lettuce tainted by the cyclospora parasites, which is transmitted in fecal matter.

Still, Chipotle’s history with foodborne illness issues has made its investors wary. The stock remained flat in aftermarket trading Wednesday. It closed up 2 percent Wednesday, recouping some of the steep losses logged in wake of the reported outbreak.

Chipotle is already facing backlash from customers, too. An Ohio man sued Chipotle Tuesday, asking for $25,000 after he purchased three chicken tacos on July 29 from Chipotle and then started experiencing nausea, headaches and hot flashes, according to the lawsuit filed in Delaware County in Ohio. He was undergoing medical treatment, the lawsuit says.

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