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Americans Who Heard Of Chipotle E. coli Outbreak Eat There Less Often

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A new poll says that nearly a quarter of Americans who heard of Chipotle Escherichia coli outbreak are eating less often in its chains. With a new outbreak linked to the food chain, the number of Americans reluctant of eating in its chains may soar higher.

Chipotle Mexican Grill was in hot water after more than 50 people were sickened by an E. coli outbreak in October. In Dec. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports five more cases of food-borne illness linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill outlets but the DNA strain is different from the larger outbreak two months back.

The poll, initiated by Reuters and Ipsos, released on Dec. 22, shows that Americans are reluctant in eating in the chains involved in the outbreak. Consumers and investors want to know and understand if the food chain has solved its food safety issues.

The company said it will increase appropriate testing of produce before it will be shipped to restaurants. It will increase and improve employee training and other changes to make the company "the safest restaurant company in the industry".

"In this case, when someone is really trying to regain the trust and refocus the brand around food safety, it's even more important that they be open and transparent," Benjamin Chapman, a food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University said

Amid the controversy Chipotle is facing, a new outbreak emerged as five people fell ill between Nov.18 and Nov.26. They all reported eating at a Chipotle Mexican Grill before the illness started.

In the Reuters/Ipsos poll of 829 adults, they found that 23 percent of those who heard about the outbreak ate less often at Chipotle chains. An estimated 62 percent did not change their habits and three percent said they were more likely to eat there.

According to the poll, the Chipotle incident sparked countrywide scare as 15 percent of Americans ate less often at other fast food chains after learning about the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle. In social media sites, Chipotle receive more negative comments than positive ones since it was involved in the outbreak.

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O26, the pathogen linked to Chipotle outbreak, is a species of bacteria normally found in the intestines of humans and other animals. Most forms of this pathogen are generally harmless but some strains can cause illness.

The pathogen can be transmitted through ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacteria. Common signs and symptoms include bloody diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps.

Most individuals do not seek medical attention during the onset of the disease because it usually lasts for a week. For vulnerable individuals like pregnant women, infants, older adults and those with weakened immune systems, the disease may become severe.

Potentially-fatal complications of the infection include kidney failure and blood problems. Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) is characterized by signs and symptoms of decreased frequency of urination, fatigue, pale color of the skin and mucus membranes, and easy bruising. 

Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr

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