CNBC reports that Chipotle did confirm in an earnings call that the outbreak was linked back to an ill burrito artist, indicating a potential relaxing of their sick day policy by some managers within the company.
Chipotle was one of the first major fast food brands to offer fully paid sick day leave to its staff, even incorporating a disease screening into their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) strategy. However, according to Chipotle CEO Steve Ells, a "thorough investigation" of last week's food poisoning occurrence "revealed that our leadership there didn't strictly adhere to our company protocols."
CNBC also received e-mails from Chipotle employees that suggested this was a problem occurring in more than just one place. One staffer showed up to work while nauseous, but management said they would have to stay unless they found someone to replace them. Another employee, who goes by the name uglydarby on Reddit, wrote a lengthy post expressing concern over being forced to work while having a cold and fever.
Other users have also revealed other shortcuts taken by Chipotle managers, including falsifying food safety sheets and not blanching produce like avocados and citrus to kill bacteria before using it for guacamole, salsas, and other purposes. Food safety sheets are required to be accurately filled as part of a HACCP plan, and blanching is likely a major critical control point for several bacteria in Chipotle's new food safety system.
While none of these events were reported at the actual restaurant where the outbreak occurred, based on this trend, it's very possible that the Virginia restaurant where norovirus was found was engaging in at least some of the same practices other managers have allegedly been partaking in.
If Chipotle's managers continue to cheat the system through these methods, it's likely their food safety issues will continue to fester and appear throughout the chain. Unless Chipotle forces stricter enforcement of their food safety policies and HACCP plan, expect more food poisoning outbreaks to occur in the near future.