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Chipotle Mexican Grill Faces New Food-Safety Problems

Dec 14, 2015

On December 10, health officials closed a Chipotle Mexican Grill location in Seattle, citing repeated food safety violations within the past year.

This is the latest food-safety problem for the popular chain of Mexican restaurants, CNBC reports. An outbreak of norovirus linked to a Chipotle restaurant near Boston College has sickened 141 people. Nearly all cases are related to students who dined at the Chipotle restaurant the previous weekend.

In addition, a widespread E. coli outbreak linked to the chain has sickened 52 people across nine states, and resulted in the temporary closing of 43 Chipotle locations in Washington and Oregon. E. coli symptoms vary but can include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. Most people recover within five to seven days, but the infection can be severe or even life-threatening, especially in older people and young children, and some people develop kidney and other complications.

Before suspending the Seattle Chipotle restaurant's permit, health inspectors found that ingredients including chicken, brown rice, shredded beef, cooked beef and fajita vegetables were not hot enough. This was the restaurant's third critical violation in 12 months, CNBC reports. A Chipotle spokesman said the food in question was in a separate line used to fill online orders, according to CNBC.

In a statement on December 9, Boston College said that health officials had confirmed the foodborne illness outbreak was caused by norovirus. Norovirus is a very contagious; individuals can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The virus causes stomach and/or intestinal inflammation (acute gastroenteritis), with stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

On average, norovirus causes 19 to 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis annually, making it the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the country. Norovirus has been the culprit in a number of illness outbreaks on cruise ships.

Norovirus illness can be serious, especially for young children and older adults and there is no medication to treat norovirus. Because this is a viral illness, antibiotic treatment does not help. To avoid dehydration, those with norovirus should drink plenty of fluids to replace fluids lost through diarrhea and vomiting. Dehydration can lead to serious problems, the CDC says. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization for treatment with fluids given through a vein (intravenous or IV fluids).

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