Chipotle: the E.coli aftermath



Between the months of July and December of 2015, over 500 people across the country fell ill after eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill, according to a Food Safety News report.

The most recent foodborne illness linked to the popular burrito chain began in November, 2015 with 22 reported E. Coli cases in the Northwestern region of the United States. By December 2015, 63 people in 11 states had reported contracting E. Coli. Of those 63 cases, 22 people were hospitalized and zero people were reported dead. In early November, the company responded to the initial outbreak by closing 43 of its restaurants located in Washington and Oregon, all of which have since reopened.

CDC 2016 Report of Number of People Effected by Chipotle E. coli Breakout 

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2015/o26-11-15/map.html | A map showing the locations and numbers of E. Coli associated with Chipotle Mexican Grill in the United States.

About one month after the first E. coli outbreak, 141 Boston College students contracted the norovirus after consuming food from Chipotle in Brighton, Massachusetts. This outbreak was similar to one that occurred four months earlier in Simi Valley, California, where 243 individuals were affected by the virus. According to Chipotle’s website, these incidents were likely caused by sick employees.

In response to the two E. Coli outbreaks, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration began an investigation on the restaurant chain. Although the CDC was unable to pinpoint any specific ingredient that caused either of the E. Coli outbreaks, they did conclude that the culprit was most likely a single common ingredient consumed by those who were infected by the illness. The investigation closed on February 1st, 2015 after the CDC confirmed that the outbreak was no longer a threat. Chipotle is still undergoing a criminal investigation conducted by the U.S. attorney's office for the Central District of California in relation to the August norovirus outbreak in Simi Valley.

Chipotle made a company-wide decision to close every store across the United States for four hours on Monday, February 8th, 2015. The restaurant used that time to hold a meeting for all of its employees to discuss their new policy on food safety.

Chipotle’s profits decreased by almost 30% between November and December, when the E. Coli outbreaks were at their peak. However, after the CDC released their findings and ended the investigation at the start of this month, Chipotle’s stock has started to increase.

 Chipotle visits before the Foodborne Illness Scandal by James Madison University Students


Chipotle Visits after the Foodborne Illness Scandal by James Madison University Students


According to the results of a poll sent to James Madison University students in Harrisonburg, Virginia, the frequency that students bought Chipotle decreased after they learned about the foodborne illnesses associated with the company. The students who consumed food from Chipotle four or more times a month dropped 50% after the incident. The amount of students who bought Chipotle less than once a month increased from eight to 28 after hearing about the outbreaks. 

Chipotle ingredients less likely to be ordered by James Madison University Students


According to the same survey, most JMU students who still consume food from Chipotle regularly still order all of the same ingredients that that they would prior to the scandal. However, 10.1 % of the students claim they no longer order meat.

On February 8th, the same day Chipotle initiated a nationwide four-hour closing of all of their restaurants, the company gave away free burritos to any customers who signed up. The giveaway began at 11:00 AM EST and lasted seven hours with great success. 

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