Chipotle’s customers are fleeing the brand in a ‘nightmare scenario’ — and they’re all wrong

Chipotle Chorizo 6

Just because Chipotle was just hit by another food poisoning scandal doesn’t mean you should stop eating at the burrito chain. 

On Tuesday, news broke that Chipotle has closed a restaurant in Sterling, Virginia, after multiple reports of customers getting sick after eating there. The news caused Chipotle’s stock to fall. 

Typically, after a food poisoning outbreak customers flee the brand. Chipotle’s sales dropped as much as 30% during after its 2015 E. coli outbreak and still haven’t rebounded to previous levels. Any food poisoning scandal is threatens to send customers fleeing. 

People took to social media on Tuesday to say that the Sterling, Virginia incident was the final straw and that they would never eat at Chipotle again. 

However, according to food poisoning expert Bill Marler, the apparent norovirus outbreak doesn’t mean you should avoid the chain. 

“A norovirus outbreaks tends to be just at one restaurant,” Marler told Business Insider.

So, unlike in a case of E. coli, which can contaminate food before it is distributed to restaurants, locations in New York City are unlikely to be impacted by a norovirus outbreak in Sterling, Virginia. As long as you haven’t eaten at that location before it was shut down, you should be in the clear. 

Norovirus cases, Marler says, are a “nightmare scenario” and are responsible for 32 million of the 38 million foodborne illnesses in the US every year.

In general, Marler says that he considers Chipotle a “safe” option that has done major work to improve food safety since its 2015 E. coli outbreak. It suffers from bad luck and negative customer associations — not necessarily improper food preparation conditions.