Chipotle Will Keep Boston Location Closed While It Tests Workers

  • Restaurant near Boston College linked to 120-plus illnesses
  • Local health officials point to norovirus as cause of outbreak

How Well Is Chipotle Handling Its E. Coli Outbreak?

A Chipotle restaurant in Boston that’s tied to a norovirus outbreak is expected to be closed for a few more days while the Mexican-food chain finishes testing workers for the illness.

A worker at the restaurant was found to be sick last Thursday, right before about 120 Boston College students who ate there fell ill. But it’s not clear if that employee had norovirus, said Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.

“We do not have testing to confirm the nature of that illness,” said Arnold, who expects the location to reopen in coming days. “All employees in that restaurant will be tested for norovirus, and none will be returning to work until they are cleared to do so.”

Local public-health officials have pointed to norovirus as the cause of the incident, which is limited to the one location near Boston College’s campus. Several of the affected students were hospitalized, though they’ve since been released, according to Jack Dunn, a spokesman for the school. More than 120 students were sickened in total, with almost all of them saying they ate at the same Chipotle in the Cleveland Circle area during the past weekend, he said.

E. Coli Fears

Chipotle was already dealing with the fallout from an E. coli outbreak that has sickened dozens of customers in nine states. The early indications from the Boston investigation have allayed fears that the E. coli strain has spread there as well, though norovirus is a highly contagious virus that can sometimes be deadly.

The Cleveland Circle location was written up for two health violations in an inspection Monday by Boston’s Inspectional Services Department. In addition to being cited for the sick employee who worked last Thursday, the restaurant was not keeping food hot enough. It was closed on Monday after reports of the illnesses surfaced.

Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhea and can spread anywhere people gather or food is served. It’s the leading cause of outbreaks from contaminated food in the U.S., making about 20 million people sick a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In cases where investigators disclosed the source of contamination, infected food workers were the cause 70 percent of the time, the agency says.

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