Chipotle closes restaurants nationwide to talk to employees about E. coli outbreak


Chipotle has had a rough several months, and its customers have too.

The E. coli outbreak

Since the recent outbreaks of E. coli in Chipotle restaurants, which began as early as July 2015, the company has experienced an onslaught of public scrutiny and has repeatedly apologized for the incidences of food-borne illness at several of its locations.

A total of more than 300 people have been confirmed to have gotten sick as a result of eating at Chipotle since July 2015. An internal report preceding the 2015 outbreaks cited the company was more susceptible to food-borne illness outbreaks due to its commitment to fresh and organic meats and produce, instead of relying on frozen goods and chemical preservatives. 

Read more: 4 food safety mistakes to avoid making at home

Why the company is closing its doors for a day

After battling the most recent E. coli outbreak, Chipotle execs have decided to have a talk with employees regarding the incidents, and the Wall Street Journal confirmed that Chipotle stores will be temporarily shut down on Monday, February 8, for these meetings. Supposedly, the meetings will address the status of the E. coli outbreak and the steps Chipotle has taken to prevent any further incidents. 

At a conference on Wednesday, Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said, ‘I’m hopeful that the CDC will call this over soon. We know that Chipotle is as safe as it’s ever been before.’

Though the cause of the latest November E. coli outbreak is still unknown, the Boston Public Health Commission traced the source of the December norovirus outbreak to a sick employee who worked on the day of the outbreak. In response, Chipotle fired the employee and also the manager who knowingly allowed the sick worker to continue working, instead of sending the employee home.

Chipotle has discussed changes to its food prep and handling procedures to avoid food poisoning. 

These include:

  • Dunking onions in boiling water to kill germs.
  • Adding the cilantro to the rice while the rice is still hot.
  • Using lemon and lime juice to kill pathogens in onions and other fresh ingredients.
  • Pre-shredding or chopping non-meat ingredients such as cheese, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro so they can be tested before being delivered to stores.

Unfortunately, all of the issues related to foodborne illness in Chipotle stores have caused the company’s stock to take a nosedive, dropping to around 40% of its 52-week high. Investors have been informed that Chipotle could have a bumpy ride ahead as it evaluates what to do in order to stay true to its mission of providing organic, sustainably sourced food while still keeping food safe for consumers.


Read more: Food expiration guide

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