Just days after vowing to become an industry leader in food safety, Chipotle had to apologize for yet another outbreak of a food safety issue in an entirely different region of the country. After E. Coli prompted the closure of dozens of fast-casual chain's locations out west, over 140 cases of norovirus lead back to an east coast Chipotle near Boston College.
Hours before the number of sick climbed to 141, Chipotle Founder Steve Ells appeared in a "Today" show to apologize for the latest outbreak.
"I'm sorry the people got sick," said Ells. "They're having a tough time and I feel terrible about that and we're doing a lot to rectify this and to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Boston College health officials have ruled out E. coli, with all signs and symptoms solely pointed to norovirus.
It inflames the intestines and stomach the tens of millions of people it infects every year, and its highly contagious. Norovirus can be spread through contaminated foods, surfaces and people.
The swelling of the intestines and, or, stomach causes stomach aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Less common symptoms of norovirus include fever, headaches and body aches.
Symptoms of norovirus generally appear within 12 to 48 hours of exposure to the virus. The worst of the illness usually last one to three days.Boston College has taken several steps to mitigate the outbreak of the virus, including calling an end to self-service at campus dining locations as the university prepares for a holiday break.
"Facilities staff has redoubled their efforts to carefully clean all common-touch surfaces in public spaces, including restrooms and dining facilities, as well as academic and administrative offices, residence halls, and athletic facilities," states the College in a health advisory.
The university's dining services have also been offering "Flu Buddy Packs," along with a dose of advice from the school's health department.
The E. Coli Outbreak
The norovirus outbreak in the east follows news that Chipotle was lowering its financial forecast for 2016, as it works to rebound after E. Coli contamination prompted the closure of 43 locations. Most of the restaurants were closed "out of an abundances of caution," according to Chipotle.
The E. Coli outbreak occurred in October. The outbreak was concentrated in Oregon and Washington, though 52 cases of E. Coli across nine states have been linked to Chipotle locations.
Earlier this month, on Dec. 4, Chipotle vowed to become an industry leader in food safety. The company called in an independent lab to review and revise current food standards.
"While Chipotle's food safety practices were already well within industry norms, I was asked to design a more robust food safety program to ensure the highest level of safety and the best quality of all meals served at Chipotle," said Mansour Samadpour, a physician and CEO of IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group. "
Chipotle adopted the food safety program "in its entirety, without any modification, said Samadpour.