E. coli patient in Pennsylvania, but Chipotle not involved

Pennsylvania was added to the list of states reporting E. coli 026 illness, and 47 of 52 national cases have been traced to Chipotle Mexican Grill.

A company spokesman, however, said there is no link to Pennsylvania restaurants.

“There actually is (no) connection to this incident and any Chipotle in Pennsylvania,” Chipotle Communications Director Chris Arnold said. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is reporting all of these E. coli 026 cases as one incident, but not all of them ate at a Chipotle. Forty-seven of 52 have reported a connection to Chipotle. The one case in Pennsylvania is one that did not eat at a Chipotle.”

The CDC, in an update to its website Friday, did not specify if the Pennsylvania case had a connection to Chipolte.

According to the CDC, most E. coli are harmless and beneficial, but some cause illness and can be passed through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.

The E. coli outbreak expanded to three more states — Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania, according to the CDC. A majority of cases, 40, have been reported by Washington and Oregon.

The other states affected by the disease are California, Minnesota, New York and Ohio.

No deaths have been reported due to E. coli, though 20 people have been hospitalized for it.

The source of the E. coli O26 outbreak is still unknown to investigators, though the CDC believes produce shipped from one location to multiple restaurants is the cause.

“The (epidemiological) evidence available at this time suggests that a common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in several states is a likely source of this outbreak,” the CDC said in a release. “... The investigation has not identified what specific food is linked to illness.”

Chipotle is assisting investigators, according to the CDC.

The company, in a Friday release, said that thousands of food sample tests taken at Chipotle restaurants linked to the outbreak discovered no E. coli. It also added that ingredients likely to have been connected to E. coli are no longer in Chipotle’s restaurants or supply system.

“Work on Chipotle’s enhanced food safety program began immediately after reports surfaced at the end of October that linked 11 Chipotle locations in Washington and Oregon to E. coli cases in those states,” the company said in the release. “Even though there is no evidence of exposures after the period of Oct. 13 to Nov. 7, and no new illnesses have occurred since then, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated that additional cases may yet be reported as cases make their way through various state health departments to the federal health officials.”

Chipotle, according to a company release, enhanced its food safety practices after an assessment by IEH Laboratories.

The company will implement “high-resolution testing of all fresh produce in which a series of DNA-based tests will ensure the quality and safety of ingredients before they are shipped to restaurants,” test ingredients for the duration of its shelf life and enhance employee training.

Chipotle has a State College location.

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli