Chipotle skips lunch Monday to ensure food safety

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Now that Chipotle's E. coli is outbreak officially over, the company closed all its restaurants across the Untied States for four hours Monday in order to help make sure it stays that way.

Chipotle held a staff meeting from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for its 50,000 employees, which CEO Steve Ells opened by saying:  "All of us are deeply sorry and saddened that a number of people became ill after eating at Chipotle. I know that we all find this to be completely unacceptable."

In October, people who had eaten at Chipotle started showing symptoms of E. coli, an outbreak that eventually affected more than 500 people in 11 states. An outbreak of a different strain of E. coli then affected five more people in December. Then, more than 120 people contracted norovirus at a Boston Chipotle in December,

There have been no cases of E. coli diagnosed since Dec. 21, and a investigation by the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention into the outbreak officially closed last week without officials able to determine what food caused it. 

Monday's meeting was to go over an improved "farm-to-fork" food safety program, which the chain implemented in January. It includes paid sick leave to make sure employees will stay home when they're sick, DNA-based testing of ingredients before they're shipped to restaurants, and some changes in food preparation protocols.

Those changes include washing and cutting tomatoes and Romaine lettuce and shredding cheese in central kitchens instead of individual restaurants. And the restaurants are now blanching avocados, onions and limes. They're are also implementing new ways marinating chicken and steak.

The meeting originated from the chain's headquarters in Denver and was broadcast nationwide.
Some of the sickened diners have sued Chipotle. Profits plunged 44 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the year before and the company is launching a major marketing campaign to win back customers.

There are six local Chipotle Restaurants in Northeast Florida -- five in Jacksonville and one in St. Augustine.

Some people in Jacksonville who hoped to have lunch at Chipotle Monday were not concerned about the safety of their food.

Actually been eating it more since I heard about (the E. Coli)," Brandon Massion said. "I guess it just hasn't happened to anyone of my friends or anyone close to me. It's just kind of something I've heard over the Internet, so it really hasn't impacted my life."

Others were concerned about eating at Chipotle.

"Actually I've been eating at Moe's ever since I heard it," Ken Marciano said. "I was like, I'm going to go try some Moe's for a little bit, let that go for a couple of months and try it again and see how it goes."

CNN contributed to this report

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