Mexican restaurant Chipotle has been in the news in recent months due to numerous outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, including norovirus and E. coli, at a few of its locations. Six students and one parent in California recently filed a lawsuit against Chipotle in Simi Valley after suffering a foodborne illness. The students and parent ended up getting norovirus after eating at the restaurant in August 2015. This class-action lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages, as well as a trial by jury.
The lawsuit alleges that Chipotle took steps to cover up a norovirus outbreak by hiding evidence before getting in touch with health officials in Ventura County. According to the lawsuit, the restaurant bleached kitchen surfaces, had employees from nearby Chipotle locations replace sick ones and threw out potentially contaminated food items. This would have made it difficult for health officials to prove that the restaurant was responsible for the norovirus outbreak.
The trouble started on Aug. 18 when a kitchen manager at the Simi Valley Chipotle location continued to handle food while experiencing symptoms of norovirus. The manager was not officially diagnosed with the illness until Aug. 20 following a doctor’s visit. Although Chipotle closed on Aug. 20 and put safety measures into effect for handling foodborne illnesses, the lawsuit claims that the corporate office failed to contact county health officials right away and did not notify customers of what had happened.
As a result of the delay, health officials weren’t able to conduct tests on food samples or take other measures to check for norovirus. The lawsuit alleges that Chipotle acted out of concern for profits instead of customers, since the restaurant was also in trouble at the time for a salmonella outbreak in Minnesota. Since then, Chipotle has also been linked to cases of E. coli in nine states and norovirus cases at a Boston location. The class-action lawsuit recently filed in California claims that at least 234 customers became ill after eating at the Simi Valley location. Chipotle is currently under a criminal investigation launched by the government over these illnesses.