The suspected norovirus outbreak at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Loudoun County, Virginia, appears to be worse than initially reported.
Initial illness reports were just the tip of the iceberg
On July 18, there were eight reports about illness from customers who ate the Sterling location over the weekend. But by the following evening, the reports ballooned to 133 in number, according to IWasPoisoned.com.
In one report on IWasPoisoned.com, a user said their child became “violently sick” with “puking, diarrhea [and] severe pain” after eating at the Sterling location on July 14. The situation took a turn for the worse over the weekend, requiring a hospital visit for dehydration, nausea and pain.
We should note that all the reports on IWasPoisoned are unofficial. For the official word, we turn to the Loudoun County Health Department. According to The Wall Street Journal, the health department received some 60 reports stemming from this particular outbreak.
However, the director of the health department notes that foodborne illnesses tend to be under-reported.
Chipotle’s response to the Sterling outbreak
Following two days of intense sanitization, the Sterling Chipotle reopened on July 19.
While officials have not yet determined a cause for the illnesses, it’s basically a foregone conclusion.
“The reported symptoms are consistent with norovirus,” Jim Marsden, Chipotle’s executive director of food safety, said. “Norovirus does not come from our food supply, and it is safe to eat at Chipotle.”
New reports of rodents at Dallas-area Chipotle
Unfortunately, Chipotle’s woes keep mounting.
Now we’re getting our first look at video of rodents scurrying on the walls and floor at a Dallas-area Chipotle.
One diner told local media that her lunch was “ruined by rodents falling from the ceiling.”
Chipotle has responded saying that it was “an extremely isolated and rare incident” and that a small gap in the building was sealed to prevent pests from entering the restaurant again.
Chipotle’s recent history of foodborne illness
As you probably know, this isn’t the first time Chipotle has struggled with health and sanitation issues.
In 2015, Chipotle’s food safety troubles began with an E. coli outbreak that started in late October. Following that, a location in Boston had a norovirus outbreak in December 2015, which left more than 130 people sick.
By the end of 2015, more than 500 people across the country had gotten sick after eating in a Chipotle restaurant, according to Food Safety News.
In early 2016, the chain shut down all locations for several hours to do a reset with employees about food safety.
Chipotle management used the pause to discuss changes to its food prep and handling procedures in an effort to avoid further food poisoning.
The changes at the time included:
- 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.