Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said Wednesday that it is investigating reports of illnesses by customers of one of its Los Angeles restaurants that appeared on the website iwaspoisoned.com.
The fast-casual chain stressed that the reports were not yet substantiated, but Business Insider, which originally reported the food-poisoning complaints, also reported that the Los Angeles Health Department's Acute Communicable Disease Control was "aware of reports of illness and is investigating."
“We take any report of illness very seriously,” said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold in an email. “As a precautionary measure, we have implemented heightened preventative procedures at this restaurant, which we do as a matter of policy if we ever receive reports of illness (even if they are not substantiated.”
News of another outbreak was enough to unnerve Chipotle shareholders. The stock of the Denver, Colo.-based chain fell nearly 5 percent Wednesday on heavy volume.
There are five posts on iwaspoisoned.com since Dec. 15 describing incidents involving the Chipotle restaurant on West Pico Boulevard, L.A., although the company indicates that the Dec. 16 ad Dec. 18 posts appear to describe the same incident.
Arnold said there is “no clinical validation associated with those reports” and added that Chipotle has not been contacted by customers directly to substantiate the claims. “We have also not been made aware of any illness reports made to local health officials.”
Since the last post about the West Pico restaurant, there have been 38 more posts on the site about food illnesses from eating at various Chipotles across the country, out of which five said they had visited a doctor. There are no indications of any state or local health investigations from these reports.
Chipotle has struggled in recent years with foodborne illnesses, most notably the E. coli outbreak in several states in 2015.
In November, shareholders tried to resurrect a class-action lawsuit, alleging the company and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hid earlier outbreaks.
Chipotle operates more than 2,350 restaurants.