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Norovirus forced this popular chain restaurant to close its doors

Published Mar 15th, 2021 4:41PM EDT
arby's norovirus
Image: grinchh/Adobe

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When we choose to eat out — whether at a fast-food chain restaurant or a nice sit-down dining experience — we’re placing a large amount of trust in the staff and in the food they’re serving. We assume they are following all health-related guidelines and maintaining a clean working environment as they prepare and serve our food. Unfortunately, sometimes a restaurant comes up a bit short, even if training and guidelines are sufficient.

That appears to be the case with an Arby’s location in Springfield, Illinois. I’ve eaten at my local Arby’s close to a million times (that’s just a rough estimate, by the way), and generally speaking, I’ve never had a complaint. For roughly 100 customers of an Arby’s location in Springfield, however, their visit to the restaurant resulted in some pretty serious discomfort. The culprit? Norovirus, which can strike up to 48 hours after exposure.

As Eat This, Not That reports, the actual cause of the outbreak remains a mystery, but it’s clear that it originated at this specific Arby’s location, located on Dirksen Parkway. The restaurant shut down as health officials conducted an investigation in February. The location underwent a full “deep cleaning” and officials spotted at least one health violation in the form of sauces not being stored in a refrigerated area. That shortcoming was corrected and the restaurant reopened soon afterward.

Now, that same Arby’s location has been closed for a second time. Health officials recommended another deep cleaning and more employee training, but the number of people that came down with norovirus after eating at the restaurant has nearly reached 100.

Norovirus is one of the causes of what people consider to be “food poisoning.” It produces symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea as well as general abdominal pain, headache, and chills. A person with a norovirus infection may also develop a fever. It can pass in as little as a day but can last for several days depending on the individual.

“Arby’s is committed to the highest levels of hygiene and food safety standards, and this is an isolated incident at a franchised location,” Arby’s said in a statement to Eat This, Not That. “Last week, out of an abundance of caution, the franchisee proactively decided to close the restaurant through the end of the month. The franchisee is fully engaged with the local health department and has conducted a professional deep clean, reinforced food safety training with all employees, and will have met all health department guidelines before reopening.”

It’s somewhat rare for a restaurant to completely shut down like this and it’s even rarer for the same restaurant to have to shut down twice in quick succession. As this outbreak has only been linked to a single Arby’s location it would appear to be an isolated incident, but that’s probably of little comfort to the nearly 100 people who fell ill after eating there.