County health officials in Ohio say although food samples from a Chipotle restaurant, as well as stool samples from people who ate there, initially tested negative for Clostridium perfringens bacteria, follow up tests by the CDC show that’s what made the customers sick. Confirmation test results on the food are pending.

A specific food has not been identified as the source of illness, according to state and county health officials. Ongoing tests are underway at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s lab.

Delaware County Health Commissioner Shelia Hiddleston said she is proud of the public health team.

In response to this outbreak, Brian Niccol, CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill posted a statement that said, in part, “Chipotle Field Leadership will be retraining all restaurant employees nationwide beginning next week on food safety and wellness protocols.”

Health district staff identified 647 people who self-reported gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming food from the Chipotle on Sawmill Parkway between July 26-30.

The pathogen
Clostridium perfringens are bacteria that produce toxins harmful to humans. Clostridium perfringens and its toxins are found everywhere in the environment, but human infection is most likely to come from eating food with Clostridium perfringens in it. Food poisoning from Clostridium perfringens fairly common, but is typically not too severe, and is often mistaken for the 24-hour flu. However, in some cases it can last one to two weeks.

The majority of outbreaks are associated with undercooked meats, often in large quantities of food prepared for a large group of people and left to sit out for long periods of time. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as the “food service germ.” Meat products such as stews, casseroles, and gravy are the most common sources of illness from C. perfringens. Most outbreaks come from food whose temperature is poorly controlled. If food is kept between 70 degrees F and 140 degrees F, it is likely to grow Clostridium perfringens bacteria.

People generally experience symptoms of Clostridium perfringens infection 6 to 24 hours after consuming the bacteria or toxins. Clostridium perfringens toxins cause abdominal pain and stomach cramps, followed by diarrhea. Nausea is also a common symptom. Fever and vomiting are not normally symptoms of poisoning by Clostridium perfringens toxins.

The Type C strain of Clostridium perfringens can cause a more serious condition called Pig-bel Syndrome. This syndrome can cause death of intestinal cells and can often be fatal.

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