Chipotle Norovirus Outbreak Prompts Criminal Investigation

In August of 2015, a norovirus outbreak that sickened 234 people was linked to the Chipotle restaurant located in Simi Town Center Way, Simi Valley, California. Now the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Office of Criminal Investigations are conducting a criminal investigation, according to a Chipotle Mexican Grill SEC filing, an excerpt of which follows:

Chipotle In December 2015, Chipotle was served with a Federal Grand Jury Subpoena from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in connection with an official criminal investigation being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations. The subpoena requires us to produce a broad range of documents related to a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley, California, that experienced an isolated norovirus incident during August 2015. We intend to fully cooperate in the investigation. It is not possible at this time to determine whether we will incur, or to reasonably estimate the amount of, any fines, penalties or further liabilities in connection with the investigation pursuant to which the subpoena was issued.

There is still speculation as to what exactly prompted the criminal investigation because the FDA has only conducted a handful of criminal investigations related to foodborne outbreaks.

Fred Pritzker
Fred Pritzker, a national food safety lawyer, can be contacted for a free consultation (click here).

Attorney Fred Pritzker, who is also representing several people sickened at Chipotle restaurants, was quoted in a Denver Post article written by Alicia Wallace and Jennifer Brown:

Fred Pritzker, a Minnesota attorney representing several victims of the Chipotle outbreaks, said federal investigators must have discovered “inside information” about negligence or the severity of illnesses. “There was something that came up that was unusual and egregious.” Pritzker welcomed the probe. “It sounds like there is an element within the Department of Justice that says, ‘Yes, we should be looking at these cases,’ and that is a good thing,” he said. “When executives have more skin in the game, it’s more likely to change their behavior.”

The date of onset of norovirus symptoms ranged from August 18 to August 22. The Simi Valley Chipotle restaurant closed for one day, in which food was discarded and the restaurant was cleaned. According to county records, the Chipotle did not tell health officials about the outbreak until after the food was discarded and the restaurant cleaned. This made it impossible for health investigators to test food products and get environmental samples to find out how the outbreak happened.

Health inspectors inspected the restaurant after being notified of the outbreak. They found some food safety violations: dirty restrooms; unsanitary floors, walls ceilings; utensils and equipment that were not clean or not properly maintained; and some workers who did not have valid food handler cards.

Chipotle restaurants were linked to 5 foodborne outbreaks in 2015:

For information about a lawsuit against Chipotle, contact Fred by using our free consultation form or call 1-888-377-8900 (toll-free).

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Category: Food Poisoning
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