Chipotle hit with federal subpoena over California norovirus outbreak

Wed Jan 6, 2016 3:23pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc CMG.N, under scrutiny for months over outbreaks of foodborne illness across several U.S. states, said on Wednesday it was served with a subpoena in a federal criminal probe linked to a norovirus case in California last year.

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. (1.usa.gov/1JtQlLV)

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.

Norovirus is the leading cause of food-related illnesses and outbreaks in the United States, often occurring when infected restaurant employees and food workers touch raw ingredients before serving. The highly contagious virus can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

The investigation announced on Wednesday is the latest headache for the company, which has seen sales slump after an E. coli outbreak sickened more than 50 people in nine states in October and November.

That outbreak was followed by a norovirus incident at a restaurant in Brighton, Massachusetts the week of Dec. 7, in which 120 Boston College students fell ill. (1.usa.gov/1JtQlLV)

BROAD RANGE OF DOCUMENTS   Continued...

 
A logo of Chipotle Mexican Grill is seen on a store entrance in Manhattan, New York November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly