The company's sales plummeted 30 percent in December

By Alex Heigl
Updated January 06, 2016 02:05 PM
Credit: Loop Images/UIG/Getty

Chipotle’s ongoing issues with food contimination outbreaks at its restaurants are now the source of a criminal investigation, the Associated Press reported Wednesday morning.

The company received a subpoena last month from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, which requires the company to hand over documents tied to a restaurant in Simi Valley, California, where a nororvirus outbreak sickened patrons in August.

Doug Beach, a manager of the food program at Ventura County’s Environmental Health Division, told the AP on Wednesday that Chipotle had cooperated with the county’s investigation. The restaurant, he added, started getting complaints about illnesses on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, and shut down its restaurant on Friday. But it didn’t report the issue to the county until Saturday, after it had already reopened the location.

The California outbreak did not receive as much attention as E. coli outbreaks at Chipotle restaurants in late October and November, which followed outbreaks in Minnesota in September. Another norovirus outbreak occurred at a restaurant in Boston in December.

The company’s sales have dipped correspondingly, with drops of 30 percent at established locations in December, the company said Wednesday. It retracted its sales forecast for 2016 based on the change. Co-CEO Steve Ells said it’s likely the company will never know the culprit behind the cases, but Chipotle has taken out full-page apology ads in newspapers across the country and pledged to change its food safety protocols.