The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may have declared the E.coli outbreak linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants over, but the restaurant chain continues to face more backlash from the food safety issue.
Not only have sales plummeted following a series of foodborne illness outbreaks across the country, which included infections of E.coli, salmonella and norovirus, the company was also slapped with a federal criminal investigation.
At first, the focus of the probe was on a single Chipotle restaurant in California where about 200 customers were sickened with norovirus. But the company announced it had been hit with another subpoena asking for company-wide food safety documents dating back to 2013.
The investigation, led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), focuses on what the company knew about safety issues and why illnesses were not reported to authorities sooner.
According to a memorandum by Ventura County environmental division officials, the Simi Valley restaurant first reported the outbreak to them on Aug. 22. The restaurant had already closed and reopened the restaurant after having received two complaints of illnesses two days prior. As of Aug. 24, the public health department had yet to be made aware of the outbreak.
Prosecutors may be questioning why the restaurant closed the location to clean it before notifying officials, and whether corporate executives were responsible for this protocol.
The memorandum also reported on Aug. 22 that 17 of its employees at the Simi Valley location had reported experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms. The restaurant said it replaced the staff with temporary employees. By the time the health department conducted its investigation on Aug. 24, the number of complaints had jumped to 46. During that inspection, more violations were found despite the restaurant being closed Aug. 21-22 for cleaning.
The subpoena could lead to a review of health inspection reports for all 1,900 Chipotle locations, which could lead to wider issues including violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.