More than 200 ill after chowing at local Chipotle

Kiera Manion-Fischer

Investigation finds no violation of food service laws; cause of illness still unknown

Chipotle employee Kacie Prologo tells people about the restaurant’s closing Friday afternoon for sanitary reasons. ABIGAIL S. FISHER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Ron Soltys

The number of people sick, possibly due to getting a food-borne illness after eating at Chipotle last week has grown to slightly over 200, the Kent City Health Department reported.

By the numbers:

• 180 people reported sick

• 37 people treated at Robinson Memorial hospital

• 900 people go to Chipotle per day.

The first case was reported Thursday evening. Patients showed symptoms of severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Chipotle voluntarily closed Friday after a health department investigation and reopened Saturday afternoon after cleaning its facilities and disposing of food. The investigation found that the restaurant had not violated any food service laws.

Health commissioner John Ferlito said the problem has so far been isolated to the Chipotle in Kent. He said about 900 people eat there every day, and most are Kent State students.

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said in a statement that the restaurant met or exceeded health department requirements and will continue to help the health department with its investigation.

Food and stool samples were sent to the Ohio Health Department to be tested to determine the exact cause and type of the illness. The results will probably be completed by the end of this week.

Thirty-seven patients were treated at Robinson Memorial Hospital as of yesterday, said Jennifer Farquhar, marketing and public relations specialist for the hospital.

Students experienced symptoms in varying degrees, said Bob Walker, EMS coordinator for Robinson Memorial Hospital.

“We treated them with IV therapy and fluids,” he said. Patients were also given medication to deal with their symptoms.

The illness took about 24 hours to appear and cleared up after 24 hours, Ferlito said.

Ferlito said the cause of the illness is difficult to determine because so many ingredients go into every burrito. It could have been a virus or toxin. No clear pattern emerged, he said.

Kelly Engelhart, nursing director of the Portage County Health Department, said there are many different things that can cause food poisoning.

“Generally what we do when we do these investigations is try to determine what they had in common,” Engelhart said. “What they ate, when they ate it and what their incubation period is.”

Junior physics major Kevin Pospichel ate a steak burrito with rice, corn salsa, sour cream , cheese and guacamole Wednesday afternoon with two of his friends. He felt queasy Thursday morning and started vomiting that night.

“I went from feeling bad to horrible,” he said.

Pospichel said neither of his friends got sick, and both of them ate the chicken. He would definitely eat at Chipotle again but might wait for a little while before going back, he said.

Sophomore nutrition major Megan Swaggard said she might go back to Chipotle because she got a gift card for a free burrito at last week’s blood drive.

She and two of her friends got sick after eating a vegetarian burrito bowl with hot sauce Wednesday evening. She donated blood Thursday and started feeling sick Friday morning.

“I had to call the blood bank and tell them to throw my blood out,” she said.

Contact safety reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].