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Sterling Chipotle reopens after illnesses

Chipotle in Sterling, Virginia, closed when customers reported illnesses consistent with norovirus. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

STERLING, Va. — The “Temporarily Closed” sign on the Chipotle Mexican Grill at 21031 Tripleseven Rd. came down late Wednesday morning.

The fast-casual restaurant reopened on time at 11 a.m. Wednesday after being closed for two days following reports several customers had fallen ill after eating there.

Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Loudoun County Health Department, said Chipotle closed voluntarily, and has been following the department’s guidance since.

“They have taken steps to bring in new food product, professionally clean the facility and minimize the likelihood that any ill employee would be working,” Goodfriend said in an email to WTOP Wednesday morning.

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Goodfriend’s office said officials have not yet determined a cause for the illnesses.

Several customers had reported diarrhea and vomiting since Friday, symptoms which Chipotle said were consistent with norovirus, a highly contagious bacterial infection.

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Goodfriend said norovirus is confirmed by finding the virus in the stools of an ill person.

“We are attempting to do that this week, and should have some results back by early next week.”

Even without confirmation of what made customers sick, Goodfriend is confident the risk has been minimized.

“We are not aware of any concern with the food supply chain, all existing open food products have been discarded, and the restaurant has started they have brought in new food preparers,” said Goodfriend.

Customers who ate at the restaurant and fell ill should contact the health department at 703-771-5411. Questions for the health department can also be emailed to health@loudoun.gov

Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said in a statement that the well-being of customers is a top priority for the chain.

All surfaces at the Sterling store have been sanitized, he said.

“The event that occurred at this restaurant is consistent with Norovirus which can be introduced by people into any closed environment like schools, cruise ships, nursing homes or restaurants.

“It is unfortunate that anyone became ill after visiting our restaurant, and when we learned of this issue, we took aggressive action to correct the problem and protect our customers,” Ells said.

Ells said Chipotle as a company has made a number of changes to improve safety, including hiring an industry leader to oversee food safety, adding additional food handling and preparation procedures and implementing an auditing system for third-party suppliers.

 


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