Chipotle Temporarily Closes Location After Customers Report Becoming Violently Ill

Image courtesy of Josh Bassett

If you live in Virginia and were planning to grab Chipotle for lunch, you might want to make sure your local restaurant isn’t closed: The fast casual chain temporarily shut down a location in the state after more than a dozen customers became ill.

Business Insider reports that Chipotle temporality closed its Sterling, VA location Monday in order to sanitize the restaurant following reports that customers became ill after eating there.

“We are working with health authorities to understand what the cause may be and to resolve the situation as quickly as possible,” Jim Marsden, Chipotle’s executive director of food safety, told Business Insider.

The company says it plan to reopen the restaurant today.

Vomiting, Fever, Diarrhea

Issues at the location came to light Monday after the website iwaspoisioned.com revealed it had received eight reports indicating 13 customers fell sick after eating at the restaurant between July 14 and July 15.

In all, customers reported “vomiting violently” and “violent stomach cramps” for several days after eating at the restaurant. At least one person made two trips to the hospital.

A rep for Chipotle tells Business Insider that the company is aware of the reports and believes the symptoms are consistent with norovirus.

Another Contamination?

Norovirus differs from contaminations like E.coli and salmonella, as it doesn’t originate in food.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, 70% of outbreaks originate when a sick person serves food. The virus can also spread to people who happen to be in a room where someone with the virus vomits.

If the Sterling health issues turn out to be norovirus, it wouldn’t be Chipotle’s first run-in with the illness.

In Dec. 2015, Chipotle closed a Boston College location after more than 100 students became ill.

Then in March 2016, the company temporarily closed another Massachusetts restaurant after a worker was diagnosed with the virus. However, no customers reported becoming ill. The following month, Chipotle temporarily closed a Chesterfield, VA restaurant after someone became sick inside.

Taking Precautions

The temporary closures of the Virginia and Massachusetts location came as part of Chipotle’s new safety protocols. Following Chipotle’s highly public battle with food-borne contaminations and other illnesses in late 2015, the company made policy changes intended to reduce the odds of future problems.

In addition to new food safety protocols — like having raw veggies chopped at a central kitchen, dipping onions in boiling water, and marinating raw chicken in sealed bags — the burrito chain decided to give employees sick leave, and said that restaurants will be temporarily shut down for cleaning after anyone vomits inside the building.