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Chipotle says tests show it wasn’t source of San Diego outbreak

LA MESA Calif. Chipotle Mexican Grill has concluded that its restaurant in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa was not the cause of a hepatitis A outbreak that sickened 14 people.

According to San Diego County health officials, up to 14 people have contracted the liver ailment in the recent outbreak. However, all 26 employees at the Chipotle restaurant were tested and none was found to be carrying the virus.

The Denver-based chain “began cooperating immediately with local health authorities,” Monty Moran, president and chief operating officer, said in a statement.

The situation in La Mesa follows a norovirus outbreak in Kent, Ohio, that local health officials traced to a Chipotle branch near the campus of Kent State University. About 450 people there were sickened, according to local reports.

Chipotle, which operates 730 fast-casual burrito restaurants, has set up a claims program that allows customers who became sick to request reimbursement for their medical expenses.

Hepatitis A is spread through poor hygiene and often when someone consumes contaminated food or water, according to the San Diego Health and Human Service Agency. Symptoms of the disease include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine and jaundice.

The La Mesa restaurant has been inspected by the health department five times in the past five months, including two inspections in the past week, and received A grades in each inspection, said a Chipotle spokeswoman. The unit is open for business, she added.

“There is no evidence the hepatitis A cases were caused by Chipotle’s food, either by the investigation conducted by health department or by our internal investigation,” said spokeswoman Lisa Kovitz.

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