Chipotle CEO apologizes over illnesses, vows to be 'safest place to eat'

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Chipotle Founder: We Are Making Chipotle 'Safest Restaurant to Eat at'

WASHINGTON, Dec 10 (Reuters) -- Chipotle founder and co-Chief Executive Officer Steve Ells on Thursday apologized to patrons who fell ill after eating at the company's restaurants, and pledged that sweeping new food safety practices will prevent such outbreaks in the future.

"This was a very unfortunate incident and I'm deeply sorry that this happened, but the procedures we're putting in place today are so above industry norms that we are going to be the safest place to eat," Ells said in an interview on NBC's "Today" program.

Chipotle restaurants that closed due to outbreak:

1 PHOTOS
Chipotle closings because of E.coli
See Gallery
Chipotle CEO apologizes over illnesses, vows to be 'safest place to eat'
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

His comments come a day after local health officials reported that 80 people had been sickened by norovirus linked to a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc restaurant in Boston, in the latest wave of patrons who have fallen ill on the heels of another outbreak in the Northwestern United States.

That finding appears separate from a spate of E. coli infections in recent months that has sickened 52 people in nine states and forced the company to temporarily close some locations.

The burrito restaurant chain has been under scrutiny since November, when health officials first linked it to the E. coli outbreak, the company's third food safety incident since August.

The illnesses have raised concerns about potential damage to Chipotle's reputation despite the loyalty it has built over its use of fresh produce, meat raised without antibiotics and ingredients free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Some critics have said the food safety concerns raise questions about the fast-growing brand, and shares of the company have fallen from a year-high in August, when the incidents began.

Asked whether the company could recover financially, Ells said "certainly," a sentiment some analysts shared.

"We see value in shares from current levels for investors that can look through the potential near-term choppiness," William Blair analysts wrote in a research note.

After Ells's comments, shares of Chipotle were up 3.6 percent at $567.71 in premarket trading on Thursday. The stock has fallen about 20 percent this year.

Ells said the affected Boston restaurant would reopen after being completely sanitized and having all of its employees tested for norovirus, which is highly contagious and spread easily through contaminated food and surfaces.

More than 120 people in the northeastern U.S. city reported symptoms.

Regarding the E. coli outbreak, Ells said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has still not found an exact source for the bacteria, which can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting.

He said Chipotle's new food safety procedures will put it 10 to 15 years ahead of industry standards.

See more cases of food poisoning in recent years:

7 PHOTOS
E. coli cases and food poisoning
See Gallery
Chipotle CEO apologizes over illnesses, vows to be 'safest place to eat'
BOSTON - AUGUST 23: Colony of E. coli cells are grown in the synthetic biology lab at Harvard Medical School in Boston on Tuesday, August 23 2011. (Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
ELIOT, ME - MAY 26: Kyler Dove, a seventh grader at Marshwood Middle School in Eliot, stops to take a drink from one of the 11,520 water bottles donated to the school Tuesday, May 26, 2015 by Cumberland Farms. Home Depot and Hannaford have also made donations to the school as it manages the current E coli scare. (Photo by Jill Brady/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OR - MAY 23: A shopper looks for bottled water on nearly empty shelves at a New Seasons Supermarket May 23, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. Oregon health officials ordered Portland to issue a boil-water alert after three separate samples tested positive for E. coli, a bacterium that can cause severe gastrointestinal illness. (Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)
Jack Kurtz, 10, right, and mother Paula Gillett pose for portrait in their Rockford, Illinois home, November 5, 2009. Jack recovered from a food-borne illness last year. The source of the E. coli that hospitalized him was never determined. (Photo by Lane Christiansen/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Madison Sedbrook, 6, right, and her mother Cindy are in their home at Highlands Ranch on Tuesday. Madison's parents are suing because she got e coli from eating raw cookie dough recalled by Nestle. Hyoung Chang/ The Denver Post (Photo By Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA - FEBRUARY 21: A BJ's Wholesale Club awaits customers on February 21, 2007 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Yesterday, the giant wholesaler announced a voluntary recall of prepackaged Wellsley Farms mushrooms, due to possible trace amounts of E.coli. No cases of the illness have been reported. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

More from AOL.com:

FBI investigating marriage of San Bernardino shooters
Two dead, thousands without power after US Pacific Northwest storms
Macri's challenge: Restore Argentina's long-lost economic power
Read Full Story

Markets

S&P 500 2,348.45 4.43 0.19%
DJIA 20,661.30 -6.71 -0.03%
NASDAQ 5,821.64 27.82 0.48%
DAX 11,929.90 25.78 0.22%
NIKKEI 225 19,085.31 43.93 0.23%
HANG SENG 24,327.70 7.29 0.03%
USD (per EUR) 1.08 0.00 -0.06%
USD (per CHF) 0.99 0.00 0.02%
JPY (per USD) 110.63 -0.72 -0.64%
GBP (per USD) 1.25 0.00 0.21%

Want more news like this?

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from business news to personal finance tips delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners