(Reuters) – At least 140 people said they had fallen sick after eating at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N) restaurant in Ohio, sending shares of the burrito chain down as much as 9 percent on Tuesday.
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Chipotle Mexican Grill is seen at the Chipotle Next Kitchen in Manhattan, New York, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
The customers said they suffered from food poisoning and diarrhea after eating dishes including tacos and burrito bowls at the Powell, Ohio restaurant over the past few days, according to food safety website iwaspoisoned.com.
Chipotle was informed of two customer complaints of illness at its Powell restaurant, Laurie Schalow, the company’s chief communications officer, said in an email.
“We acted quickly and closed this single restaurant out of an abundance of caution yesterday. We are working with the local health department and we plan to reopen this restaurant today,” Schalow said on Tuesday.
The Powell outlet said in a phone call that it was working with health department officials to get the restaurant open by Tuesday afternoon.
It was not immediately clear if the customers had received doctors’ diagnosis linking their illnesses to food eaten at the chain.
The posts on iwaspoisoned.com are anonymous and Reuters could not immediately verify the accounts.
Chipotle told health officials that two to five staff members called off work due to illness on July 29 and 30, Business Insider reported here on Tuesday, but the company did not confirm this to Reuters.
Ohio state health officials were not immediately available to comment on the incident.
The news is another setback to the company, which was recovering from a series of high-profile food safety lapses in 2015 that sickened more than 100 customers and bruised Chipotle’s reputation and stock price.
It is also the first major food safety issue that new CEO Brian Niccol has to deal with as he works to bring back customers to the once red-hot Mexican food chain.
“If this story gains traction, it might have more serious implications for the stock. It certainly, at this point, its a negative. I think it is something the CEO should address,” Maxim Group analyst Stephen Anderson said.
The company’s shares were down 5.6 percent at $439.60, erasing gains made since Chipotle reported stronger-than-expected profit and same-restaurant sales for its second quarter on Thursday.
Just months before the 2015 food safety incidents, Chipotle was trading at over $700.
Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Maju Samuel