Chipotle shares fall on another Food Safety Outbreak

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) shares fell rapidly just before noon on Wednesday after public health officials began investigating a possible illness outbreak in a Los Angeles location, first reported by Business Insider. Shares fell by 3 percent, now adding yet another food related illness outbreak.

In an email to Business Insider, the Los Angeles Health Department's Acute Communicable Disease Control unit, which investigates contagious illnesses and diseases, said the agency was "aware of reports of illness and is investigating.”

Several people who ate the Los Angeles Chipotle location reported symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea on iwaspoisoned.com. In total, there has been five reports posted stating that at least seven customers have gotten ill.

Chipotle confirmed it was aware of illnesses connecting to that location.

"We take any report of illness very seriously. We are aware of three reports (two of which appear to be the same) on a user-generated reporting site, but there is no clinical validation associated with those reports, and we have not been contacted by customers directly to substantiate these claims," said Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesman.

Arnold told CNBC that Chipotle is not aware of any reports made to public health officials, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported that there is an ongoing influenza widespread in California.

Arnold also said that several employees who were ill were not allowed at the location due to the company’s sick policy.

"So all of this is happening against a backdrop of widespread illness throughout the state," Arnold said.

The possible incident of another outbreak adds to the chain of unfortunate events Chipotle has faced. In July, Chipotle had a similar incident with a norovirus outbreak in a Virginia location. Health officials later confirmed that the location was the source of the virus.

In the third quarter, Chipotle reported that the beginning of the fiscal year comparable store sales were up 4 percent, but fell to 2 percent around the time of the norovirus. Investors can now expect a slower growth rate or even a decline. In its earnings call, Chipotle forecasted a 6.5 percent comparable store sales increase.

The endless string of problems was what ultimately led both co-CEOs, Steve Ells and Monty Moran to step down. Ells stepped down a month ago, while Moran stepped down in 2016 following the E. coli incident.

Chipotle shares have now fallen over 60 percent since its E. coli outbreak in 2015 to date.

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