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Chipotle tries to recover from outbreaks

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Dec 10, 2015
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The series of outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants started last August, when people at a California Chipotle got sick from a norovirus. Then customers at Chipotles in Washington and Oregon got sick, this time from E. coli. Then this week, people who ate at a Boston Chipotle got sick, again from a norovirus strain.

“Noroviruses are indeed difficult,” said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold. 

Arnold said Chipotle is using a special bleach to get rid of the norovirus, and all workers at the Boston Chipotle are being tested for norovirus. According to Boston public health officials, there was a sick employee at that restaurant around the time of the norovirus outbreak. Arnold said Chipotle has sent senior managers to its restaurants to oversee training, and it is trying to prevent E. coli by testing suppliers.

A sign showing that the Chipotle Mexican Grill Boston location is closed on December 8, 2015. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

“What we’ve done is a reassessment of all of the practices from farm to restaurant for each ingredient that we use,” said Arnold.

Chiptole is also working on its image. Jonathan Bernstein of Bernstein Crisis Management has some ideas about that.

“Everybody needs to be able to provide the customer with evidence that it’s safe,” he said.

Bernstein said Chipotle should keep safety brochures on hand that workers can give to customers worried they’ll get sick.

And he said Chipotle should not say it’ll become the safest place to eat. Which is exactly what its co-CEO did on the “Today Show” Thursday morning.

Bernstein said statements like that can come back to bite you, if there is another outbreak. 

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