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Chipotle deals with food-safety situation

LA MESA Calif. Health officials are testing every employee of a Chipotle Mexican Grill in a suburb of San Diego after six cases of hepatitis A were linked to the restaurant, according to the fast-casual chain and local press reports.

Twenty-two employees had been tested as of midday Thursday, and none were found to be carrying the virus, according to a statement from Chipotle.

The chain “began cooperating immediately with local health authorities,” president and chief operating officer Monty Moran said in the statement. He asserted that “the health and safety of our customers and employees is our top priority.”

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver.

The situation in La Mesa, Calif., follows a norovirus outbreak in Kent, Ohio, that local health officials have traced to a Chipotle near the campus of Kent State University. About 450 people there were sickened, according to local reports. Chipotle has set up a claims program that allows customers who became sick to request reimbursement for their medical expenses.

“Investigators have informed us that they believe that the illness was caused by a norovirus, not by anything in our food, equipment or our food supply,” Moran said in a statement issued about the situation in Kent. “We plan to assist people who believe their illness was caused by a visit to our restaurant with reimbursement of related health care expenses.”

Norovirus causes flu-like symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea.

A Chipotle spokesman stressed that the two situations are completely separate and isolated.

Based in Denver, Chipotle operates 730 fast-casual burrito restaurants.

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