According to a statement released by CEO Brian Niccol, Chipotle Mexican Grill agreed to pay a record $25 million fine as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over the agency's probe of a series of tainted food incidents that sickened more than 1,100 people over a three-year period 2016-2018.
U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said, ”Chipotle failed to ensure that its employees both understood and complied with its food safety protocols, resulting in hundreds of customers across the country getting sick,”
“Today’s steep penalty, coupled with the tens of millions of dollars Chipotle already has spent to upgrade its food safety program since 2015, should result in greater protections for Chipotle customers and remind others in the industry to review and improve their own health and safety practices, Hanna said.
The outbreaks of norovirus—a highly contagious pathogen that can be easily transmitted by infected food workers handling ready-to-eat foods and their ingredients.
None of the incidents happened in NJ but officials said there were illnesses in company-owned Chipotle restaurants in Los Angeles, Simi Valley, Boston, Sterling, Virginia, and Powell, Ohio.
Norovirus can cause severe symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramping. In the Simi Valley case alone, 234 customers and employees fell ill.
CEO Niccol said in the agreement with federal prosecutors, the company will work with its Food Safety Council to evaluate, among other things, the company’s food safety audits, restaurant staffing and employee training to mitigate the issues that led to the outbreaks.