by Morgan Conklin-
Known for foods with clean ingredients and high farm standards, Chipotle suffered a devastating blow when an E. coli outbreak sickened over 60 people throughout the end of 2015. A strain of the Norovirus also sickened over 100 people in December.
“My boyfriend is from Slovenia and his brother got sick a few days after arriving in the States. They ate Chipotle as a welcome dinner and it did cross my mind that he was sick from E.coli,” Ashley Meier, a senior Virginia Tech student said.
According to the FDA, beginning in October of 2015, 55 people were sickened from the STEC O26, which is a toxin that produces E. coli. Twenty-one people were hospitalized in the wake of the outbreak. In November 2015, Chipotle closed 43 restaurants in Washington and Oregon to address the issue. In December, five people were sickened with a different strain of STEC O26 and one was hospitalized.
Chipotle stock plummeted, dropping 14.7 percent in the last quarter of 2015, according to money.cnn.com
On February 1, 2016, the CDC declared that Chipotle’s E. coli outbreak was over, one week before their company wide food safety meeting, which forced stores to close for a few hours.
The meeting was live-streamed through Periscope and live-tweeted.
Customers were also able to sign up for a coupon to receive a free burrito since the stores were closed during normal operating hours. The promotion was only available through text or a limited time.
“I heard about the promotion and told my roommates to do it,” Courtney Stutts, a Virginia Tech senior said. “We all did it, but I didn’t receive my coupon for some reason.”
Chipotle on Main Street in Blacksburg has been booming since the promotion was put in place. On Saturday evening, the line snaked to the back of the restaurant by the rear door.
“My roommate went this past weekend and used her free meal and I still ended up going and just paying for my meal, so I guess marketing wise they’re doing something right,” Stutts said.
Nationally, Chipotle dealt with the repercussions of the outbreak, but locally students stayed loyal.
A survey of Virginia Tech students addressed their thoughts of the chain before and after the E.coli issue. Of the 70 responses, only 27% of students stopped eating Chipotle in the wake of the outbreak and 86% of students said they will go back to Chipotle.
“I think when something like that happens everyone becomes frightened and begins to question sanitation and food safety,” Meier said. “I think it can happen anywhere and I still love going to Chipotle.”