Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) was hit with a $25 million fine by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the largest in food safety fine in history, for its involvement in a norovirus outbreak that sickened more than 1,100 people.

In the charges filed against Chipotle, the DOJ claims that the restaurant chain adulterated food that was in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The charges against Chipotle are from a norovirus outbreak that occurred from 2015 to 2018. Norovirus is a pathogen that can be transmitted by food workers through the preparation of food, causing diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain.

The company was implicated in five foodborne illness outbreaks during this time period in connection with its restaurants in the Los Angeles area, Boston, Virginia, and Ohio. The outbreak stemmed from employees failing to comply with food safety protocols at its restaurants.

In once instance, 234 customers and employees from a Simi Valley, California, Chipotle restaurant became ill but the company did not report the incident.

In another incident, 141 people became ill from the norovirus at a Boston Chipotle restaurant, after an apprentice manager vomited in the store and then two days later packaged a catering order for a Boston College basketball team, who had members that became ill.

Another Chipotle restaurant in Powell, Ohio, had about 647 people who became ill because food was not kept at the appropriate temperatures.

Chipotle agreed to a three-year deferred prosecution agreement that will allow it to avoid prosecution if it complies with an improved food safety program, in addition to the landmark $25 million fine. As part of its agreement with the DOJ, Chipotle will follow an “improved, comprehensive food safety compliance program.”

“Chipotle failed to ensure that its employees both understood and complied with its food safety protocols, resulting in hundreds of customers across the country getting sick,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna for the Central District of California, said in a statement.

“Today’s steep penalty, coupled with the tens of millions of dollars Chipotle already has spent to upgrade its food safety program since 2015, should result in greater protections for Chipotle customers and remind others in the industry to review and improve their own health and safety practices.”

Chipotle Bowls Chipotle now offers Paleo, Keto, Whole30, and Double Protein Lifestyle Bowls on its menu. A sign marks the location of a Chipotle restaurant on October 25, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. Chipotle stock fell more than 14 percent today after a weak 3Q earnings . Photo: Getty Images/Scott Olson