Health officials link sick Boston College students to a norovirus outbreak at Chipotle

Not what Chipotle ordered.
Not what Chipotle ordered.
Image: Reuters/Brian Snyder
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Health officials confirmed Wednesday (Dec. 9) that a Chipotle restaurant in Boston has been linked to an outbreak of norovirus, a highly-contagious food-borne illness. The outbreak was reported earlier this week when Boston College said that 30 students had fallen ill after eating at the chain’s Cleveland Circle location. The number of students reporting symptoms of norovirus has since risen to more than 120.

Norovirus, also known as gastroenteritis, causes diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Symptoms typically develop within a day or two of exposure to the virus, which can be transmitted by eating contaminated food or by touching contaminated surfaces. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus causes 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations in the US every year, and hundreds of deaths.

“We offer our sincerest apologies to people who were impacted by this incident,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said in a statement.

Norovirus is the latest addition to Chipotle’s food-safety woes. The fast-casual chain is reeling from an E. coli outbreak that in recent weeks has caused sales to plummet and forced the temporary closure of dozens of restaurants. At last count, the E. coli incident had affected 52 people across nine states, with 47 saying they ate at Chipotle in the week before falling ill. The CDC has yet to identify which meal item or ingredient most likely caused that outbreak.

Chipotle cautioned in an SEC filing last Friday that if current trends continue, its comparable restaurant sales could be down 8% to 11% for the quarter. That would mark Chipotle’s first quarterly decline since going public.