Chipotle addresses multiple illness culprits

Chipotle meets with employees on proper health and safety protocol
Chipotle meets with employees on proper health and safety protocol   

Chipotle Mexican Grill is blaming sick employees for the two norovirus outbreaks that the restaurant chain experienced last year.

The company closed stores for a few hours on Feb. 8 for a national team meeting to discuss proper health and safety protocol. Chipotle revealed that tomatoes were the likely culprit behind the salmonella outbreak in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"That's one of the reasons why we no longer dice tomatoes in our restaurants," the company said in a statement Monday.

However, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended its investigation last week, representatives for the fast-casual chain are still uncertain of which ingredient cause the E. coli outbreaks.

Chipotle has taken a number of measures to prevent foodborne illnesses, including shifting some preparation to its central kitchens, blanching ingredients, and making modifications to how it marinates steak and chicken. The company also previously announced a paid-sick leave policy to ensure employees would stay home when they are ill.

During Monday's national meeting, Co-CEO Monty Moran also announced a bonus program that rewards individual restaurants on food safety measures.

Co-CEO Steve Ells unveiled the Chipotle Local Grower Support Initiative which commits $10 million to helping local producers provide the Mexican food chain with ingredients that meet the company's new food safety standards. The money is intended to offset the costs of education and enhanced testing for farmers in Chipotle's existing local produce program.