Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca has vowed to “get to the bottom” of a suspected norovirus outbreak that has forced it to shut a number of its stores.
The company, which runs 23 restaurants, confirmed within the last hour that four of its sites remain closed for the time being as it deals with the issue.
Public Health England, the government body that oversees public health and wellbeing, told FEJ this morning that it is investigating the case after being made aware of 205 staff and 160 members of the public reporting illness.
Wahaca co-founders, Mark Selby and Thomasina Miers, took the step of issuing a joint statement in which they confirmed that staff and customers were struck down by the winter vomiting bug last week.
They did not specify the locations of the stores affected, but said that when it became clear that the cases were not isolated incidents they got in touch with officials at Public Health England and Environmental Health Offices.
“In tandem with that, we took our own precautionary measures – voluntarily closing affected restaurants, carrying out anti-viral deep cleaning at all of our restaurants, whether affected or not, and ensuring that any staff member who had reported illness remained off site until their symptoms had ceased for at least 48 hours,” they said.
The pair added that its teams had “worked tirelessly” to ensure that everything in its power had been done to limit any risk to customers and staff, and the situation remains under control. It said they were working closely with all local authorities to monitor the situation closely.
“The majority of our restaurants are open and we hope to reopen the four remaining sites, on a case by case basis, as soon as we feel we are ready to do so,” they said.
“We are incredibly sorry that people have been unwell. In the nine years since we first opened Wahaca we have never had such an unprecedented incident, and we are doing everything we can to get to the bottom of how this may have happened.”
Public Health England confirmed they are investigating the outbreak.
In a statement emailed to FEJ this morning, Deborah Turbitt, London Deputy Director for Health Protection for Public Health England, said: “Public Health England has been notified of a suspected norovirus outbreak at a restaurant chain. We are working closely with environmental health officers and the restaurant chain to investigate. We have so far been made aware of 205 staff and 160 members of the public reporting illness, however these are unconfirmed cases. Currently, the source of the outbreak is not confirmed and this remains under investigation.”