A recent nine-state E.Coli outbreak tied to U.S. restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) resulted in the issuance of a formal apology from top management. The corporate mea culpa coincided with the recent increase in the number of sickened students from Boston College who reportedly ate at the restaurant chain in early December.

CMG co-CEO and founder Steve Ells issued a formal apology. With tighter food safety protocols, Ells reinstated the company's guarantee that related incidents will not happen again.

"This was a very unfortunate incident and I'm deeply sorry that this happened, but the procedures we're putting in place today are so above industry norms that we are going to be the safest place to eat," said Ells during an interview with NBC's Today show.

Boston College spokesperson Jack Dunn said 141 students reportedly got sick, including some members of the men's basketball team, who ate at Chipotle last week. The norovirus outbreak was linked to a Chipotle branch located a half mile away from the campus.

Twelve students who didn't eat at the said Chipotle branch, which is now temporarily closed, also manifested norovirus symptoms. Norovirus is highly contagious. The number of infected individuals are expected to rise, added Dunn.

Officials are still identifying the main ingredient that sickened many customers. Chipotle said the still unknown ingredient is most likely out of its restaurants and that the outbreak's exposure phase seemed to have passed.

Chipotle officials said a sick employee on duty might have cause the norovirus outbreak. The company stressed that employees are offered paid sick days, which the said employee should have taken.

The employee who came in sick to work violated the company's policies, added Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold. Prior to the Boston branch's reopening, Chipotle employees will be tested for norovirus. Until cleared, the employees will not be allowed to return to work.

The outbreak on Nov. 13 slapped the Chipotle's sales in the last few weeks. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 52 people suffered from the E. Coli outbreak in nine states. About 47 of those affected ate at a Chipotle restaurant.

Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr

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