Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chipotle Restaurants Health Alerts

Update: As of Friday, April 25, the number of Hepatitis A incidences linked to the Chipotle restaurant in La Mesa has increased to 12.

There's been two health alerts related to Chipotle restaurants in the past week. The latest is the one in La Mesa on 8005 Fletcher Parkway. So far, about 6 Hepatitis A infections have been reportedly linked to the La Mesa Chipotle restaurant. The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency and County Department of Environmental Health are urging anyone who ate at this location between March 1 and April 22 and experiencing Hepatitis A symptoms to immediately see their doctors to be screened for the illness.

Blood samples have been taken from the employees and patients but Officials have yet to determine if the source of the infection was person or food related. There are 2 common ways of getting infected by the Hepatitis A virus. One way is transmitted when something contaminated with the stool of someone who has Hepatitis A comes in contact with someone else's person's mouth (that is just gross). Another way is when a person eats food or drinks water contaminated with the virus.

So if you've eaten at that Chipotle restaurant during that time period and you're experiencing symptoms such as fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, and jaundice, you should make a trip to your doctor's office immediately for testing. The only good news is that Hepatitis A does not become chronic like other forms of Hepatitis and symptoms of Hepatitis A usually lasting less than two months (that's about 2 months too long for me).

This latest outbreak is not good news for the Chipotle restaurant chain. Especially coming right after the closing of a Kent, OH location just last week. The Portage County Chipotle restaurant voluntarily closed on Friday (4/18) when about 20 people complained of vomiting, nausea and diarrhea and Chipotle was found to be the common factor. Food samples were taken by Officials for testing and the restaurant threw out all prepped foods and began sanitizing all the equipment (hope they sanatized the entire restaurant). The restaurant reopened the next day.

But it hasn't gotten easier for the Kent, OH location. As of Monday (4/21), approximately 180 people have come forward about possibly having had food poisoning at the Kent location. The health commissioner said those people who got sick all ate burritos. By Tuesday (4/22), the total number of reports went up to about 440 people. Officials have stated that there hasn't been proof that the illnesses were food related and that the restaurant continues to work with health officials. Health officials are still investigating the exact cause of the sickness.

If you are in the Kent, OH area and may have gotten ill from food at the Chipotle restaurant, please call the Kent Health Department at 330-678-8109.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Myojo Okinawa Style Ramen Brand, yuh? I got to try that brand, as it sure looks good. I always buy the Yamachan brand from Marukai. The pork broth has a rich flavor and the noodles is nice and firm. Also good for fried noodles. I bet those Myojo Brand would make good okinawan fried noodles. I don't know why, but for the past couple months, I've been on the instant dried ramen kick for breakfast before work. My deluxe model is from 7-11. I just buy the dried ramen and throw in a couple pork hash also from 7-11. And walah....... have a good one, lance

Barefoot Plumies said...

Hey Lance! I've got Yamachan brand noodles on my shopping list for Marukai. I got the May flyer over the weekend and it looks like lots of dried and fresh noodle packs will be going on sale in May.

I've never had Okinawan fried noodles but that sounds good! Got a recipe or method you wanna share?? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll like the Yamachan brand. It comes three noodles and broth in a pack also. Fresh noodles. They also sale the noodles and broth by themselves. I use the broth to add more flavor to my japanese curry blocks. Turns out kinda salty, but I like salty things and I guess that's where all that hot rice comes in.

Sorry, I tried it only once at one of those sample counters at Marukai. It was the same as how you'd make a local style fried saimin, but more on the simple side with cabbage, bean spouts, some marinated meat and the dried dashi from the package that came with the noodles. No deluxe with char siu, spam, scrambled egg, teri meat, etc. I guess the biggest difference was the okinawan thicker noodles. I bet you're starting to miss drive-in fried saimin right now.

Barefoot Plumies said...

lol! Reading all this is making me hungry and I've already had dinner. Yamachan has to be pretty bad for me not to like it. I imagine the dashi can't be worse than that stuff that comes with Top Ramen.

I'll have to remember bean sprouts. That should add a health point to my eating, ha! I also like salty stuff and I used to just cook Top Rame with canned chicken broth. I never knew what to do with the season package but now I'll know not to throw them away and use your method to add flavor to other things. That sounds really good.

Joe said...

Barefoot,

I noticed your blog entry, and I thought I’d respond to it, since I’m a Chipotle employee myself. We are sorry to have caused you anxiety over these reports. We’d like to emphasize that the safety and well-being of our customers and employees is, and always has been, our highest priority – and food safety plays a big part in that. We would like you to know that what happened in La Mesa, CA and what happened in Kent, OH are separate and completely isolated events, completely inconsistent with our long-standing track record of excellent service and quality.

As for La Mesa, our restaurant there has been inspected by the San Diego Department of Environmental Health five times in the last five months, including two times during the week of April 21 and has received an “A” or excellent rating each time. 100 percent of our entire staff at La Mesa has been tested by the health department, given clean test results and allowed to work. At this time, the health department has not reached a conclusion as to the source of the Hepatitis A cases in the area, but they have deemed it completely safe for us to remain open. We will continue to cooperate with the health department fully in this regard as they continue their investigation.

As for Kent, this is not believed by the local health department to be connected at all to our food supply, but looks to be a norovirus (which is a communicable illness that is spread very easily from person to person like the common cold). It doesn't originate in food. We took a number of voluntary steps to ensure the well-being of our customers and our employees, including the temporary closing and complete sanitization of our restaurant. Additionally, Chipotle has established a claims program and process for the reimbursement of related medical expenses. Since then, our Kent restaurant has remained open with the full support of the local health department. A follow up inspection conducted by the health department there found that our restaurant met or exceeded all health department requirements. However, most definitely, we will continue to assist the health department as it completes its investigation.

Thank you for allowing me to post this information.

Sincerely,

Joe Stupp
Chipotle

Barefoot Plumies said...

Hi Joe and thanks for taking the time to comment.

I do have a question for you. Is the information you posted an official statement that Chipotle management has issued? The reason I ask is that Chipotle's website has provided no information on either of the incidences in Kent or San Diego. And if the information you provided was issued by Chipotle headquarters (where you posted your comment), I would certainly hope they will be provide this information in a formal statement on the official website. I would imagine that would get out to a larger audience than my humble blog.

Also just some education to readers on novovirus and how it is spread. It is not spread in the same manner as a common cold like you suggested, Joe. A person cannot get infected with a novovirus from someone’s sneeze. According to the Centers of Disease Control, noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people. People get infected with the virus by either eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus; touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth; having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms.

Some foods can be contaminated with norovirus before being delivered to a restaurant or store. Food and drinks can very easily become contaminated with norovirus due to its small size. Doesn’t take much, fewer than 100 norovirus particles to make a person sick. Food can be contaminated either by direct contact with contaminated hands or work surfaces that are contaminated with stool or vomit. The virus cannot multiply outside of human bodies, but it can still cause illness once on food or in water.

So again, I hope that the Kent location not only dissinfected the equipments but dissinfected the entire restaurant.

Joe said...

Barefoot,

Yes, sure, I guess you could say it's official. We are still considering what to do with regard to posting on our website, but we are most definitely engaging as frequently as possible with the local media in those areas regarding these events, which we feel is extremely important.

As for your note about norovirus, you are correct. I wasn't trying to imply that it was catchable by sneezing but only that it was communicable, and I am sorry for my phrasing. You are also correct about it possibly being spread from food as well as by a number of other ways, and I apologize for my error.

But yes, when I said that we disinfected our restaurant in a complete way, I meant it, including not only disinfecting our equipment but also changing out the food and changing out our employees.

Thanks again,

Joe

Barefoot Plumies said...

Thanks for your clarification, Joe.
I would also like to suggest that Chipotle Corporate include the information regarding Chipotle's offer to reimburse medical expenses for customers suspect they had gotten ill after eating at the restaurant.

I'm not sure I understand what Chipotle corporate is still considering on what to do with regards to posting on your website. It’s been more than a week since the news hit on San Diego, longer for Kent. I’m sure one of the thoughts is to just lay low until the media and the news become old and fade. But I hope that’s not what Chipotle decides to do. Especially with the statements Chipotle officials have said about their dedication to consumer safety. I think at the very least, a point of contact should be provided for consumers who have questions. Perhaps corporate doesn't want a flood of phone calls and I can appreciate that. But even just a press release stating all the facts to date show good faith on Chipotle's part, rather than have customers doing searches all over the web, and possibly not getting the most current information.

I also don't believe just dealing with local media will cut it. Chipotle is a nationwide chain. Not just the people in San Diego and Kent know about these incidents. I would think corporate would want to spread the word more widely. But perhaps in the end, corporate feels a more quieter approach is the way they want to handle it. Just my two (or maybe five) cents.