Yes, Chipotle, we know guacamole is extra. Did you know getting hundreds of customers violently ill is extra? This week, Chipotle agreed to settle criminal charges with a $25 million fine, which the Justice Department says is the largest ever in a food safety case. By settling, the company tacitly agrees that it served tainted food from multiple U.S. locations from 2015 to 2018, sickening 1,100 people. Yikes.
The company was accused of “adulterating food while held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce,” violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act on two counts. What actually happened is sort of unclear. By settling the case, the company admitted its connection to at least five food-borne illnesses between 2015 and 2018. Restaurants in or around Virginia, Ohio, Boston, and Los Angeles made customers sick as the result of neglecting food safety protocols. One of them, per the Times, was a norovirus outbreak in Boston in late 2015—probably spread by an employee who’d been instructed to stay at work, even though they’d vomited at the restaurant.
This isn’t the first time Chipotle’s been in hot water for getting customers sick. Remember in 2015, when hundreds of Chipotle fueled outbreaks of norovirus, salmonella, and E. coli nationwide? How we all vowed to stop eating there after all that bad press? Well, in the wake of that, Chipotle hired a new food safety officer named James Marsden—Father! Of! The! Actor!—and insisted that it’s since installed new food safety protocols. Marsden retired last year, and people still got sick under his tenure. You know, not to give Chipotle too much slack here, but I’m going to go ahead and assume that any ubiquitous fast food chain that serves fresh lettuce is going to get diners sick every so often.