Chipotle Mexican Grill reported a nauseating 30 percent sales drop for the month of December, thanks to a deluge of foodborne illness outbreaks at several of its restaurants that resulted in temporary closings at some locations and a federal criminal investigation.
In a regulatory filing, the burrito bar chain of restaurants said it was asked to produce numerous documents related to a norovirus outbreak this summer at one of its restaurants in Simi Valley, Calif. The company said the investigation did not involve the E. coli outbreak that sickened at least 47 people and resulted in the closing of 43 restaurants in Seattle and Portland over the summer, nor the more recent Boston College-area outbreak that sickened more than 120. It also did not include the salmonella infections that were caused by tomatoes from a Minnesota restaurant earlier last year.
Legal experts say that the criminal probe was unusual. But since outbreaks traced back to restaurants are generally caused by an infected employee, perhaps the federal investigation involved employment violations.
A food program manager at Ventura County’s Environmental Heath Division said the U.S. Attorney’s office requested records from his office regarding the outbreak there last month. He told ABC News, “that was a first for us.”
Each time news broke of a foodborne illness outbreak linked back to a Chipotle restaurant, sales at the once-popular restaurant chain took a beating. Fourth quarter sales dipped 14.6 percent, the first time company sales went south since it went public in 2006.
Chipotle has placed full-page ads in dozens of newspapers across the country apologizing for the illnesses and vowing to make changes to improve food safety at all its locations by tweaking cooking methods and increasing testing of meat and produce.
Source: ABC News