Lawyers representing seven people who got sick after eating Chipotle last year in California filed a class action against the embattled burrito chain Tuesday, alleging that it tried to cover up an outbreak of norovirus. Robertson and Associates filed documents alleging that executives at Chipotle's Simi Valley location knew its kitchen manager was sick with gastrointestinal problems but allowed the employee to work anyway, eventually leaving about 230 customers ill, according to a news release.
The kitchen manager in question was accused of "infecting potentially thousands of customers" Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 before he was diagnosed with norovirus, a contagious stomach bug, Aug. 20. The Chipotle location closed down, but it didn't alert local health care authorities right away, according to the lawsuit.
"Chipotle chose instead to try and conceal all evidence of the outbreak by disposing of all food items, bleaching all cooking and food handling surfaces and replacing its sick employees with replacement employees from other restaurants before notifying county health officials of the outbreak,"the suit read, according to NBC.
Chipotle reopened the Simi Valley store five days later, and that's when it alerted the county environmental health division to the problem, the New York Post reported. "They informed us, but not in a timely manner,” Doug Beach, a manager of community services in Ventura County, said.
Chipotle has been the target of several recent lawsuits after scores of its customers got sick with norovirus and E. coli after eating at its restaurants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saw more than 50 Chipotle customer cases of E. coli starting in November, and more than 100 college students in Boston reportedly fell ill with norovirus in December.
Chipotle last week announced plans to temporarily shut down all of its United States stores Feb. 8 for an all-hands meeting to discuss food safety. "I have confidence that we're going to recover from this," co-CEO Steve Ells said during a recent presentation.