Chipotle Probed for New Outbreak of Different E. Coli Strain
Chipotle Mexican Grill, still reeling from recent outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus at its restaurants, is now being investigated for its link to a new spate of illnesses in three additional states.
Five people in Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma have been reported as falling ill from an E. coli strain with a rare DNA signature, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday in a statement. All five, who became sick on dates ranging from Nov. 18 to Nov. 26, reported eating at a Chipotle in the week before their illnesses started.
The new report may further damage Chipotle's reputation -- built on the promise of fast food made with better ingredients -- which already has been battered in recent weeks by an outbreak of E. coli that afflicted at least 53 people in nine states. That was followed by a norovirus contagion at a Boston location that sickened more than 140 college students. The company now expects sales to fall as much as 11% in the fourth quarter as the illnesses bring attention to the company's food-safety struggles.
"Since this issue began, we have completed a comprehensive reassessment of our food safety programs with an eye to finding best practices for each of the ingredients we use," Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesman, said today in an e-mailed statement. "We are now in the process of implementing those programs."
Chipotle said the three most recently reported illnesses all stemmed from two restaurants: one in Oklahoma and one in Kansas.
The shares fell as much as 6.1% to $508.10 in New York after the CDC released its statement. Denver-based Chipotle already had tumbled 21% this year through last week in the wake of the earlier outbreaks.