Just when you thought it was safe to eat burritos again, yet another Chipotle restaurant in the Boston area closed last Tuesday due to a suspected norovirus infection.
The Billerica Chipotle restaurant was closed immediately after at least three employees were suspected to be infected with the virus. The Billerica Board of Health originally reported that one of the three cases was confirmed, and has since backtracked, reports Eater.
The Chipotle restaurant remained closed for two days in order to be fully sanitized. No customer illnesses were reported, and the restaurant received the all-clear to reopen on Thursday. The location offered free burrito coupons to customers who came by in the morning, as the chain delayed opening until 12:30.
The closure of the store and the fact that workers suspected of being ill were sent home have been seen by some as a test of the new food safety guidelines put into place by Chipotle last month after the various food safety scares at the restaurants in 2015, Reuters reports.
Chipotle closed all of its restaurants for several hours on February 8 in order to highlight new food safety measures and to invite potential customers to try a burrito for free. One of the measures highlighted in the meeting was the policy of sending any employee suspected of being ill home immediately.
However, the measures taken at the Billerica location are not seen as enough by some.
"While we can praise Chipotle for demonstrating their new and improved safety measures, the fact is: This isn't happening at other restaurants — other restaurants that consumers have to choose from when deciding where to eat," T.J. Winick, vice president for national public relations firm Solomon McCown & Company said in an email to Eater, "This is just another reason for them to go elsewhere."
Chipotle lost roughly $750 million in value between last Tuesday’s announcement and the chain’s reopening last Thursday. The stock is down 23 percent in the past year, following the food safety problems of 2015, including an E. coli outbreak in late October and November.
Norovirus was also the culprit behind the December outbreak at a Chipotle restaurant in Brighton, another Boston suburb, which led to 136 customer illnesses and a three-week closure. Norovirus can cause stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Chipotle restaurant image via Shutterstock