Chipotle is reeling in the wake of yet another tainted-burrito scare that forced the company to voluntarily close 43 Washington and Oregon locations this weekend. The headache is going beyond lost sales and humiliating press: The inaugural lawsuit came yesterday courtesy of a Washington woman who says she ate a burrito bowl and got bloody diarrhea. It was filed by a top personal-injury law firm and is the first of what’s sure to be a few.
Health authorities are still investigating the cause of the outbreak, but the money’s on bad produce right now. (It’s the third serious outbreak in two months — the others were from a nasty norovirus bug and tomatoes infected with salmonella.)
The worst part for Chipotle, though, is the poorly timed ding to its reputation. Everybody knows painstakingly sourcing ingredients is Chipotle’s thing to levels verging on obstinacy, and this third food-poisoning incident has sent investors fleeing from the company. Executives are describing Chipotle’s stocks as “very, very choppy” anyway, and this set off a glut of national headlines like “Is It Safe to Eat at Chipotle After E. Coli Outbreak?” and “Does Chipotle Have a Food Safety Problem?”
Spokesman Chris Arnold is reminding people (investors) that the closures were voluntary, done “out of an abundance of caution.” Regardless, it sure wasn’t what Chipotle had in mind for this year’s $3 Halloween Boorito promo that instructed costumed trick-or-treaters to “spook us by adding something unnecessary.”