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Chipotle chain under criminal investigation

The embattled Chipotle restaurant chain faces more woes. Recently the company announced it received criminal subpoenas from federal investigators, even as sale profits plunged 30 percent last month after the latest in a series of food contaminations in the restaurants.

In a regulatory filing, the company stated they had to provide documents linked to the norovirus outbreak last summer in its Simi Valley, California, location. Company officials claim this investigation doesn't involve the Boston outbreak of norovirus or the recent E. coli outbreak that spread among the chain.

The criminal investigation is headed up by the U.S. Attorney's Office for California's Central District, in conjunction with the Office of Criminal Investigations for the Food and Drug Administration.

The chain was rocked by October and November outbreaks of E. coli, followed closely by contaminants sickening customers last month in Boston.

In December, the company retracted its sales trends forecasts for this year, saying they could no longer offer reasonable predictions. Last week, in the regulatory filing, Chipotle stated the company couldn't determine the amounts of "fines, penalties or further liabilities" it could face from the federal investigation.

A company spokesman pledged to fully cooperate with the investigation.

The manager of the Environmental Health Division's food program in Ventura County said that the FDA first approached the county regarding the local investigation this fall. A later telephone call with the U.S. Attorney's office took place either in October or November.

The food program manager stated that restaurant executives didn't broach the subject of the customers' illnesses with the county until Aug. 21, after the Simi Valley location was already shuttered for sanitation and then reopened. The manager believed that Chipotle knew about sick employees the week prior.

Those who get sick from contaminated food served at restaurants have legal grounds to pursue financial claims for their losses and damages.

Source: Tucson News Now, "Trying to right itself, a criminal investigation at Chipotle," Candice Choi, Jan. 06, 201

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