Popular chain restaurant Chipotle Mexican Grill has received a federal grand jury subpoena in relation to its recent multiple outbreaks of food-borne illness.
The court filing came from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, which is working with the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations. The probe which generated the subpoena came after an outbreak at a Simi Valley, California location where 234 people contracted the norovirus linked to an employee who had the virus, but was not sent home.
Chipotle characterized the California outbreak as “isolated” in a January 6 SEC filing which made the subpoena public. However, the past few months have seen a rash of E. coli, norovirus, and salmonella contagions. This includes a spread of norovirus at a Boston location that affected more than 140 people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 53 cases of E. coli linked to Chipotle reported across nine states as of December 2015.
In a statement regarding the subpoena, Chipotle said “It is not possible at this time to determine whether we will incur, or to reasonably estimate the amount of, any fines, penalties or further liabilities in connection with the investigation pursuant to which the subpoena was issued.”
Regardless of possible fines linked to the outbreaks, Chipotle is already facing financial fallout. The chain suffered a $6 billion loss in stock value in the fall of 2015, and its per share price fell nearly 5% the day of the SEC filing. Same-store sales fell 14.6% in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Chipotle made the widely-publicized announcement to cease using genetically modified ingredients in April of 2015, several months before the first reported infection in July.
Read more about the subpoena and recent incidents linked to Chipotle restaurants here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-06/chipotle-says-sales-dropped-even-more-than-expected-last-quarter; http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/01/federal-grand-jury-subpoenas-chipotle-records/#.Vo1ytVPgW_l
Read more about recent E. coli outbreaks in the United States here: http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2015/o26-11-15/