Following what can only be described as a horrific year for Chipotle, one of the nation’s fastest growing restaurant chains, the national office has decided to close all of its stores, nationwide, for part of the day on February 8th. The company says it will shutter more than 1,900 Chipotle locations, coast to coast, so that the employees can take part in a meeting to address safety concerns and what it will take to move forward. According to Chipotle, this is an opportunity to thank employees, answer questions and to discuss the important changes it intends to, or has already, implemented.
According to critics, this is also a day for reflection on what went terribly wrong in 2015, when Chipotle was at the center of a number of very high profile outbreaks, including outbreaks of E. coli, Salmonella and norovirus. According to food safety lawyer Ron Simon, the string of outbreaks is nothing less than an embarrassment to Chipotle, which touts the health of its food as a major component of its appeal to consumers. “This has been the worst year for any chain in terms of number of separate outbreaks linked to one establishment that I have seen in more than 20 years,” says Simon, adding “I have seen much larger outbreaks, and outbreaks that have turned fatal, but this is something different. Chipotle has been lucky so far in that there have been no fatalities in these outbreaks, but when a single restaurant chain is at the center of a string of outbreaks of different pathogens, that tells you something about that chains’ commitment, or lack thereof, to food safety.” Ron Simon currently represents many victims in a number of the norovirus, E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks across the nation.
The company’s drastic move to shutter all of its stores comes after investors have seen a 42% drop in the stock price from a recent high of $750 per share to a low of $428 per share. The drop was caused by the fear of civil lawsuits, a noted drop in sales, and following the issuance of a subpoena regarding the Simi Valley outbreak by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations.
In addition, the chains’ commitments to “buying local,” and to serving organic and/or non-GMO food came under intense scrutiny, with many people pressing the chain to opt for more traditional, and processed, foods that may help it control the presence of food borne pathogens.
2015: A Year of Chipotle Outbreaks
The 2015 outbreaks include at least 64 Minnesota patrons who were infected with Salmonella in August. This was quickly followed by the Simi Valley Norovirus outbreak that sickened about 100 California residents. Then, one or more E. coli outbreaks appeared in Washington and Oregon states in October, quickly spreading to include at least 53 victims in 9 states as more and more victims were identified. And finally, for 2015, late November/December saw two more outbreaks. First, 140 plus residents in and around Boston College were sickened with Norovirus, and then a new E. coli outbreak affecting at least 5 people in Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota was announced. These individuals ate at Chipotle locations in Shawnee, Norman, OK.
The law offices of Ron Simon & Associates continues to receive calls, every day, from people who believe they received food poisoning from eating at Chipotle Mexican Restaurants. For more information about Chipotle outbreaks of Norovirus, E. Coli and Salmonella in 2015, call 1-888-335-4901.