Chipotle’s Being Accused of Trying to Cover Up Its Norovirus Outbreak

Jan 21, 2016

Chipotle has reportedly been hit with a lawsuit that claims the chain attempted to conceal a norovirus outbreak.

The class-action, filed on Tuesday, raises questions about an outbreak at a Simi Valley, Calif. location that affected at least 234 customers, NBC reports. The lawsuit states that a kitchen manager who was suffering symptoms continued to work at the restaurant from Aug. 18 until he was diagnosed with norovirus two days later. It says that when at least two customers had complained they were suffering symptoms, Chipotle (cmg) attempted to cover up the outbreak instead of immediately alerting authorities.

The complaint accuses Chipotle of "disposing of all food items, bleaching all cooking and food handling surfaces and replaces its sick employees with replacement employees from other restaurants before notifying county health officials." The manager of the food safety program at the Ventura County Environmental Health Division says that this prevented authorities from conducting certain investigation procedures, including sampling the food.

Chipotle had been enduring a string of food safety issues at the time, and the lawsuit claims that the fast casual restaurant tried to cover up the newest outbreak in an attempt to prevent damage to its stock price.

Chipotle's communications director, Chris Arnold, said in a statement to Fortune, "As a matter of policy, we don't discuss details surrounding pending legal actions. I'd note, however, that when this incident occurred, we took appropriate measures to address it, including notifying health officials in Ventura County."

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