Chipotle Shuts Restaurant After College Students Get Sick

  • Mexican-food chain coping with E. coli outbreak in nine states
  • Location near campus temporarily closed after 80 fall ill

Boston Chipotle Closes Restaurant After 80 Fall Ill

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., reeling from an E. coli outbreak that has sickened dozens of customers, closed a restaurant in Boston following complaints of  “gastrointestinal symptoms” from scores of Boston College students, including members of the men’s basketball team.

QuickTake Food Safety

“Our restaurant at Cleveland Circle in Boston is temporarily closed while we work with local health officials to investigate a number of illnesses among Boston College students,” Chris Arnold, a spokesman for the chain, said in an e-mail. “There are no confirmed cases of E. coli connected to Chipotle in Massachusetts.”

Arnold added that local health officials “seem to be leaning” toward norovirus -- not E. coli -- as the culprit in this case. “It seems consistent with the pattern here,” he said.

Eighty students at Boston College have reported getting sick, with symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea, after eating at the Chipotle location over the weekend, according to Jack Dunn, a spokesman for the school. The students have been tested for E. coli and norovirus, and the results aren’t expected for at least two days, Dunn said.

The incident has renewed fears about food poisoning for Chipotle, which is trying to bounce back from a spate of E. coli illnesses in nine states. That outbreak has sickened at least 47 customers, and it prompted the chain to temporarily close locations in Oregon and Washington. The cause of the contamination hasn’t been determined.

Chipotle’s stock fell 1.7 percent Tuesday to $542.24 in New York. The shares are down 21 percent this year, largely because of the E. coli reports.

Sales Plunge

On Friday, the company said that sales have plummeted since the outbreak was linked to the chain. Chipotle now expects sales at established locations to fall as much as 11 percent in the fourth quarter. That would mark the first time the company has posted a decline since it went public in 2006.

The Boston College students, including members of the men’s basketball team, got sick after eating at a Chipotle in the Cleveland Circle area, which is near campus, Dunn said.

“The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been notified, and is working to determine if there is a link to the ongoing national outbreak of E. coli,” he said.

Over the summer, a norovirus outbreak at a Chipotle in Southern California left about 200 ill. That outbreak began with a sick employee, according to a local health official.

Boston College sent out a letter to all students Monday afternoon about the illnesses and the “common denominator of all affected students having eaten at the local Chipotle restaurant,” Dunn said.

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