Chipotle Must Pay a $25 Million Criminal Fine for Food Safety Violations
Chipotle Inc. will pay a $25 million criminal fine for causing foodborne illnesses due to improper food safety procedures between 2015 and 2018. These outbreaks were the source of at least 1,100 known (“confirmed”) illnesses, though it is largely believed this as only a small number of the total number of patrons who became ill in these outbreaks – outbreaks liked to various bacteria and viruses.
The Chipotle stores responsible for the majority of the illness in five of the food poisoning outbreaks included restaurants in Boston, Los Angeles, Ohio, and Virginia. In each of these outbreaks, employee error is believed to have been central, including keeping food at unsafe temperatures, concerns for cross contamination, and workers continuing to work while sick. According to some reports, Chipotle has inferred that that sick workers who came into work are at fault for contaminating the food with the virus, but there are also reports of workers claiming they were being pressured to work even while sick.
A failure to follow good food production standards is also problem. In one outbreak in particular, in Powell, Ohio between July 26th and the 30th of 2018, the findings included that food was held at unsafe temperatures, causing approximately 700 people to become ill with food poisoning symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. When food is held at unsafe temperatures, bacteria such as Clostridium perfringens, Salmonella, or E. coli can develop and causes food poisoning.
Many of the outbreaks of 2017, including an outbreak in Los Angeles in which authorities confirmed at least 28 victims of food poisoning, were bacterial outbreaks. Others, such as the one Virginia in which at least 135 victims were identified, are believed to have been due to Norovirus, which results in symptoms of watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever, as well as flu-like symptoms. The Norovirus, commonly known as the stomach flu, is spread from person to person through food, drinks, and contaminated surfaces, and often leads to a very large numb of illnesses, In one outbreak that straddled 2015 and 2016, Chipotle was at the center of a food poisoning outbreak, due to the Norovirus, including 141 people in Boston reporting symptoms similar to that of Norovirus.
In the aftermath of these food poisoning outbreaks, Chipotle has repeatedly promised to retrain employees across the country to prevent mishandling of food and is believed to be food poisoning-free (no “confrmed” food poisoning cases) since 2018.