By: Candess Zona-Mendola

More details are out and connected to the E. coli outbreak linked to Chicken & Rice Guys in Boston, Massachusetts. As social media heats up with scared patrons and victims purportedly coming forward, the rest of Boston is awaiting information about the investigation by Boston Inspectional Services. Since the reports from yesterday, the company confirms it closed its Medford location. This means that all of their physical brick and mortar locations at Medford, Allston, Downtown Crossing, Boston’s Prudential Center, and on Bedford Street are closed. All of their four food trucks have also been parked in the interim. The closures come less than a month after the company announced the grand opening or rather “Grand Hatching” of its latest location in Downtown Boston.

Investigations Pending

Health officials from the Boston Inspectional Services had a scheduled meeting with the heads of the Chicken & Rice Guys this morning at 9:00AM Eastern Time to discuss the investigation and how this outbreak would be handled. According to an interview from the local media with Boston Inspectional Services’ Commissioner William Christopher Jr.,

“It’s [the outbreak] being well-managed now between us and the Department of Public Health so that we know what’s going on, very unfortunate for these people. And once we get to a point that we really understand what the cause was, then we’ll be able to have a prescriptive response to make sure everything is taken care of.”

Commissioner Christopher did not offer any further information about the extent of the investigation, the agency’s process, or any leads they have currently.  At this time, UnsafeFoods is awaiting the release of Boston Inspectional Services’ public statement post-meeting.

Voluntary Closures of Stores, Removal of Food Trucks from the Streets

Many patrons and members of the public are cautious to believe the company voluntarily closed operations yesterday. When the initial reports went public about the closure of Chicken & Rice Guys stores and food trucks, the company reported on its website that:

“ATTN: All trucks flocking home early today! #LunchCancelled!”

They were mum to the outbreak otherwise, until the Boston Inspection Services announced otherwise.

Later that evening, they posted on their social media that:

“Dear our loyal customers, it has been recently brought to our attention that some of our patrons have not been feeling well after visiting some of our food trucks. Currently, we have not figured out the cause and have decided to voluntarily shutdown affected operations. It is always CNRG’s goal to provide the best service and products to our fans and we will not do that until we can.

-CNR Team”

The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Ian So, has reported to the media that the company closed its doors on its own volition to assist the health agencies with the investigations. The Boston Globe, however, has reported the contrary. The Chicken & Rice Guys patrons are questioning which is right. Some have expressed their support of the company, while others are leery of who to believe. According to one concerned patron on Facebook today,

“You sure that you “voluntarily” shut down operations on your own fruition??? The Boston Globe seems to say otherwise.”

Another commented, “Right? This is the part that’s frustrating me. CNR keeps saying it was voluntary, but that doesn’t seem to be the case according to news reports.”

The company represents that it is refuting the Boston Globe’s article. They responded to a concerned a patron today, “…Our Allston restaurant, our food trucks and our food truck kitchen were all inspected yesterday. They all passed inspection. We decided to close until we have more information, but that closure is voluntary.” The closure of the Medford location was confirmed to have been voluntary.

Other news outlets have reported that the company is working with the health department and undergoing pathogen testing of its kitchens. Mr. So further stated that all three locations that have been subjected to testing by the Boston Inspectional Services have passed inspection. It is unknown if every location and food truck is to be tested.

Details about the Victims

Little has been released about the details of those who are sick. The company confirmed on its Facebook that the unknown victims were exposed to E. coli between March 27, 2017 and March 30, 2017 at either its Allston restaurant or one of its food trucks. It is not confirmed if there have been any hospitalizations or if any children are involved.

It has not yet been confirmed by the company or the health department that this patron is indeed linked to the outbreak at hand. As the investigation proceeds, more information should be forthcoming about the ages and locations of the victims. There is also a possibility that more victims will be identified and linked to the outbreak.

What about E. coli?

We have already received calls from concerned Bostonians about the signs and symptoms of E. coli. As E. coli symptoms can show anywhere from one to nine days, it is unknown if the currently confirmed exposure dates in March are the total exposure timeframe. It is urged for any patrons who have recently eaten at Chicken & Rice Guys to monitor themselves and their family members for any signs or symptoms of E. coli.

Regardless of age or health status, anyone can suffer from food poisoning after ingesting food or drink contaminated with E. coli. As E. coli can cause illness in anyone, it is encouraged to seek medical attention if you have recently eaten food from Chicken & Rice Guys and have become ill. Symptoms of an E. coli infection may include: vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, severe watery diarrhea, potentially bloody diarrhea, and possibly a low grade fever. Children and the elderly are especially susceptible to more severe symptoms and potential future complications. These could include the development of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure, and central nervous system issues.

UnsafeFoods will continue to report on the details of this outbreak as they unfold. In the meantime, you can visit UnsafeFoods.com for more information about E. coli and how to prevent E. coli infections.