Chipotle seems to be in deep water again after a recent illness outbreak. Consumers that visited an Ohio based Chipotle between July 26 and 30 were exposed to a foodborne illness. It was reported that nearly 700 people were affected by the incident, who experienced gastrointestinal symptoms including fever, diarrhea and nausea.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Clostridium perfringens was the cause of this outbreak. In the US, these bacteria have been said to be the most common cause of food poisoning. The bacteria proliferate when food is not stored properly and left out in unsafe temperatures.
This incident might leave consumers wary of the restaurant, especially since this was not the first time Chipotle had been linked to an outbreak of foodborne illness. In 2015, the company had an E. coli outbreak that had also sickened hundreds of people and left the company’s reputation at risk. At the time of the E. coli outbreak, Chipotle had to close down 43 restaurants in Oregon and Washington state. However, this isn’t where the outbreaks stopped.
Soon after the first outbreak, the restaurant was linked to illnesses in seven other states. At Boston College in Massachusetts, around 80 students had fallen sick, causing another restaurant to be shut down.
“The real red flags are repetitive failures. When there is a repetition, that’s what really damages credibility. It’s a risky position for Chipotle to be in now,” Arun Lakshmanan, a marketing professor at the University at Buffalo’s School of Management, told the Washington Post in 2015.
At the time of the first outbreak Chipotle had seemed determined to fix their tarnished reputation.
“If there is a silver lining with an incident like this and not knowing for sure what the cause is, it’s that it has prompted us to fully reassess our food handling practices, from the farms that produce our food to the restaurants where we serve our customer,” company director of communications, Chris Arnold said.
In February of this year, Chipotle had hired Taco Bell’s former CEO Brian Niccol, replacing their founder Steve Ells as head executive. Niccol swooped in and “saved” the company with strategies to win back consumers. These strategies involved new menu items and faster online and mobile orders.
Up until now the efforts had been making a difference. Shares of Chipotle had grown 74 percent this year but dropped by four percent on Thursday after news of the outbreak. Niccol told the public that Chipotle will be retraining all restaurant employees on food safety protocols next week.