Although Chipotle CEO and co-founder Steve Ells apologized yesterday to customers who have gotten sick from eating at the chain recently — whether from E. Coli or norovirus — it’s worth remembering that there are some folks who’ve had to wait a bit longer for that mea culpa.
There’s no question that Chipotle is having a bad year, after temporarily closing 43 restaurants in the Pacific Northwest amid an E. coli outbreak that resulted in 52 sick customers in nine states. Heck, just this week, the chain announced that a Boston Chipotle had to be shuttered after being linked to around 80 illnesses, and a Seattle location is closing its doors for repeated violations.
But there were other incidents, as far back as July this year, when five people in Seattle contracted E. coli after eating at a local Chipotle, according to the county public health department. Chipotle didn’t tell the public about that one until November, however.
A string of outbreaks followed elsewhere in the U.S., which didn’t get as much attention as the more recent strings of illnesses: at the end of August, more than 100 customers in Simi Valley, CA came down with norovirus after eating at a local Chipotle and a salmonella outbreak in mid-September in Minnesota was eventually linked to tomatoes served at 22 locations that resulted in a reported 64 illnesses.
Chipotle called the summer and early fall outbreaks “a small number of isolated and unrelated incidents — in terms of geography and incident,” in an email to The New York Post from spokesman Chris Arnold.
“There really wasn’t a pattern,” he added. “Since all of this began, we have completed a comprehensive reassessment of all of our food safety and handling practices … and we have begun implementing that program.”
After offering up his apology for those customers who’ve been taken down by a Chipotle-related illness, CEO Ells said that the company would be beefing up its food safety procedures, vowing that the company is “going to be the safest place to eat.”