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Chipotle stock dips as Virginia illness investigation expands

A Chipotle restaurant in the Boston area is temporarily closed for cleaning after several employees got sick
Norovirus closes another Chipotle 01:10

NEW YORK -- Chipotle's stock dipped more than 2 percent on Monday as the company said it received a follow-up subpoena requesting information tied to illnesses associated with a restaurant in Virginia this month.

The chain disclosed Wednesday it received the subpoena July 19 for information tied to what health officials believe was a norovirus outbreak at its Sterling, Virginia, location. 

 Chipotle (CMG) noted it received a subpoena last year in connection with a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California and the Food and Drug Administration. That subpoena required documents tied to a California restaurant where a norovirus outbreak occurred in 2015. Chipotle was subpoenaed after the chain was hit with an E. coli outbreak and a separate norovirus outbreak later that year.

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The company said that it doesn't know whether it would incur fines or penalties tied to the investigation.

The Loudoun County Health Department in Virginia said Monday that a second person has tested positive for norovirus, and that the strain was the same strain as in the first person who tested positive. The department says it identified more than 135 people who reported becoming ill after visiting the Chipotle in Sterling between July 13 and 16.

The health department said, however, that it has not identified the specific source of the norovirus. It says it is not aware of any customers becoming ill since the store in Sterling reopened last Wednesday, after undergoing what the restaurant chain called "complete sanitizations."

Denver-based Chipotle said that norovirus does not come from its food supply and that it is safe to eat at its restaurants. 

Chipotle has been working to bounce back from a series of food scares that started with an E. coli outbreak in the fall of 2015 and included a norovirus case in Boston. More than 100 patrons of the restaurant, including dozens of Boston College student, fell ill with the gastrointestinal illness. The company also was forced to temporarily shut down at least 43 restaurants in Oregon and Washington because of reported E. coli cases.

Novovirus, the most common cause of foodborne illness in the U.S., causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, but with proper treatment most patients recover within a few days. A sick employee is believed to have been the source of the outbreak at the Boston Chipotle location.

Chipotle's financial performance was badly damaged by the food scares, as both its sales and stock price slumped.

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