Food left at unsafe temperatures likely led to an outbreak of the foodborne disease Clostridium perfringens linked to 647 reported illnesses at a Chipotle Mexican Grill unit in Powell, Ohio, the local county health department said Thursday.
Chipotle employees nationwide will begin retraining on food handling next week, said Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol, said in a statement.
“While this incident impacted only one restaurant, Chipotle field leadership will be retraining all restaurant employees nationwide beginning next week on food safety and wellness protocols,” Niccol said.
“To ensure consistent food safety execution, we will be adding to our daily food safety routines a recurring employee knowledge assessment of our rigorous food safety standards,” he added.
Ohio’s Delaware General Health District staff identified 647 people who self-reported gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming food from a Chipotle on Sawmill Parkway, near Columbus, between July 26 and July 30, the agency said Thursday.
Clostridium perfringens is a foodborne disease that occurs when food is left at an unsafe temperature, the agency said.
Although food samples tested negative for the C. perfringens bacteria, stool samples tested positive for the toxin that the bacteria forms in the gastrointestinal tract.
“A specific food has not been able to be identified as the source of illness,” the department said, adding that ongoing food and stool testing is being conducted by a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory.
Wall Street traders showed concern in an otherwise positive market. Chipotle's stock closed Thursday at $502.06 a share, down about 4.5 percent from Wednesday's close of $525.89 a share.
Chipotle previously retrained employees and heightened its food safety protocols after several 2015 foodborne illness outbreaks.
Those 2015 cases included E. coli linked to Chipotle restaurants that sickened at least 50 people in 12 states, and a norovirus outbreak at a Boston College restaurant that affected another 140 customers.
“Chipotle has a zero-tolerance policy for any violations of our stringent food safety standards and we are committed to doing all we can to ensure it does not happen again,” Niccol said Thursday.
“Once we identified this incident,” he said, “we acted quickly to close the Powell restaurant and implemented our food safety response protocols that include total replacement of all food inventory and complete cleaning and sanitization of the restaurant.”
Update Aug. 16, 2018: This story was updated with Chipotle's after-market stock performance.
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