A Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant in Massachusetts closed today because an employee tested positive for norovirus.  A spokesman for the beleaguered Denver-based fast food chain confirmed local media reports that the location was closed because of sick employees but did not provide many details. Chipotle Mexican Grill sign “After learning that four of our employees were not feeling well, our restaurant in Billerica, MA  was closed for a full sanitization,” said spokesman Chris Arnold. “No customers’ illnesses are connected to this restaurant. Any employees who reported feeling ill will be held out of the restaurant until they fully recover.” Arnold did not respond to questions about when the location would re-open, whether food at the location would be discarded, or whether all employees at the location had been tested for norovirus. The burrito chain is still trying to overcome a string of six foodborne illness outbreaks in the last six months of 2015, two of which involved norovirus. The most recent of those norovirus outbreaks sickened 151 people in Boston in December. The other documented foodborne illness outbreaks linked to Chipotle in 2015 were:

  • Seattle — E. coli O157:H7, July 2015, five sick people, source unknown;
  • Simi Valley, Calif. — Norovirus, August 2015, 234 people, source was sick employee;
  • Minnesota — Salmonella Newport, August and September 2015, 64 sick people, source was tomatoes but it is not known at what point in the field-to-fork chain the pathogen was introduced;
  • Nine states — E. coli O26, began October 2015 and declared over Feb. 1, 55 sick people, source unknown, states involved are California, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington; and
  • Three states — E. coli O26, began December 2015 declared over Feb. 1, five sick people, source unknown, states involved are Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Chipotle faces more than 100 civil claims by outbreak victims and their families, including a case filed by several high school students and one parent who were sickened in the Simi Valley norovirus outbreak. That case seeks class action and could include more than 1,000 members. Stockholders also have filed at least two federal court cases seeking class action status. The civil suits claim Chipotle violated the Securities Exchange Act by making false and/or misleading statements. The stockholders contend:

  • Chipotle’s quality controls were not in compliance with applicable consumer and workplace safety regulations;
  • Chipotle’s quality controls were inadequate to safeguard consumer and employee health; and
  • as a result of the foregoing, Chipotle’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.

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