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Chipotle Mexican Grill Faces Criminal Investigation

Update Date: Jan 08, 2016 09:02 AM EST

The embattled burrito-making giant is bound to get seriously grilled by federal authorities as the 1,900-strong food chain becomes a subject of criminal investigation regarding its alleged mishandling of a norovirus outbreak that occurred at one of its restaurants in central California.

According to a report by USA Today, the US Attorney's Office for the Central California District alongside the Food and Drug Administration notified the Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill of an official criminal probe after being served with subpoena in December last year. Chipotle's top management said that it will fully cooperate with the joint investigation.

The subpoena orders the food company to present a number of documents pertaining to its response to an isolated norovirus outbreak that happened at one of its restaurants located in Simi Valley, California last August 15.

So far, authorities are yet to determine the criminal charges that could be filed against the restaurant chain.

Chipotle is still reeling from recent outbreaks of food-borne illness that swept across a number of its restaurants nationwide since last year.

As of the moment, it is still difficult to accurately assess how the joint criminal probe will impact the company's future prospects.

"It's never good news for a company when federal prosecutors open a grand jury investigation into its operations, but it's far too early to tell how sustained that interest will be here and what, if any, criminal violations will come to light," observed law professor Daniel C. Richman of Columbia University as quoted saying by NPR.

The fiasco caused Chipotle sales to shrink as much as 14% in the fourth quarter of 2015 marking the first decline in its corporate history since the company's initial public offering in 2006 as mentioned by ABC News.

A series of food scares in recent months increasingly puts the food giant under the scrutinizing watch of both federal and state-based regulators.

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