Chipotle subpoenaed in U.S. for norovirus

Jan 06, 2016, 6:29 PM EST
Source: Mike Mozart/flickr
Source: Mike Mozart/flickr

Chipotle Mexican Grill has been embroiled in controversy and investigations over outbreaks of food-borne illnesses over the last few months, and has been served a federal subpoena for the outbreak of norovirus in California last year. The chain has also been linked to outbreaks of E. coli. A federal criminal probe is ongoing. Reuters reports:

Shares of the burrito chain fell more than 5 percent to $424.95, their lowest in more than two years, as the Denver-based company grapples with a wave of norovirus and E. coli outbreaks that have sickened customers and battered sales.
The company in a filing also projected a 14.6 percent plunge in fourth-quarter same-store sales, compared with a previously estimated 8-11 percent drop, which would be the first such decline in the company's history. (
Chipotle said it received the subpoena as a part of a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Food and Drug Administration. A federal grand jury will decide whether to press charges in the case.
The subpoena pertains to a norovirus case at a Chipotle in Simi Valley, California, in August. That outbreak sickened at least 234 customers and employees, though it didn’t generate much national publicity before the E. coli incidents. 
The illnesses in California were caused by a employee who had the highly contagious virus but wasn’t sent home from work. Steve Ells, Chipotle’s co-chief executive officer, recently told Bloomberg News that the norovirus outbreaks in California and Boston involved breaches of protocol that were established in 2008 after the virus sickened 500 people near Kent State University in Ohio. Norovirus is the leading cause of illness from contaminated foods, affecting as many as 21 million people in the U.S. every year. Its symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain, usually last a couple of days.