Sick Chipotle customers contact attorney; E. coli numbers expected to rise

SEATTLE -- A Seattle attorney said he's been contacted by three families who tested positive for E. coli after eating at Chipotle restaurants.

Bill Marler, whose firm specializes in foodborne illness cases, said a couple who ate at the Chipotle on Capitol Hill on Oct. 20 is among those he's talked to.

The Washington State Deptartment of Health said 19 people in Western Washington have tested positive, seven of whom were so sick they had to be hospitalized. The state said 17 of those cases are linked to Chipotle, but that the overall number is expected to grow.

“I expect the numbers to probably double in the next week,” Marler said.

Some Chipotle customers said their stomachs are churning from anxiety.

“It’s making me wonder if I am going to be next and hoping that`s not the case,” Angela Mavrow said on Monday.

Doctors advise seeking medical help if you`ve eaten at any Chipotle restaurant in the last three week and experience flu-like symptoms or blood in your stool.

Symptoms can take anywhere from one to 10 days to develop.

“People have the right to not get sick from the food they consume,” Marler said.

Chipotle issued a statement saying the safety and well-being of its customers is its highest priority. It voluntarily shut down all of its Washington restaurants.

Illnesses have been linked to eight stores in Western Washington and Oregon, but the Washington  Department of Health said it cannot reveal the specific locations.

“It`s a good thing Chipotle did that - you don`t want to see this outbreak expand,” Marler said.

The state said it is testing ingredients and interviewing patients trying to pinpoint what, exactly, caused the outbreak.

“It likely means that there was a supplier of some product that went to Chipotle and went to potentially other restaurants or grocery stores,” Marler said.

As concerned customers wait for answers, they are hoping Chipotle will learn from this outbreak.

“I am just disappointed because one of the reasons why I eat at Chipotle is because I know they source fresh ingredients,” Mavrow said.

Forty-three Chipotle stores  across Washington and Oregon will remain closed until the mystery is solved. Health officials expect to release a new batch of numbers Tuesday.