Chipotle Sued For Misleading Investors Over Food Safety

An investor filed a complaint in federal court over the outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

NEW YORK -- Chipotle Mexican Grill's legal woes are mounting in the wake of several outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

Susie Ong, a shareholder in the burrito chain, sued Chipotle on Friday for misleading investors about food safety controls. Attorneys filed the civil complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in hopes of starting a class-action suit on behalf of investors who bought shares between February 2015 and January 2016, when outbreaks of norovirus and E. coli struck restaurants across the country, according to court documents.

"Their statements regarding quality control and quality of ingredients were demonstrably false and have posed a tremendous safety hazard to their patrons," Jeremy A. Lieberman, the attorney who filed the complaint, told The Huffington Post by phone Friday afternoon. "As a result, investors in the company suffered significant losses when these health concerns were raised by regulators."

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold declined to comment.

The suit comes two days after the Denver-based chain was hit with a federal subpoena as part of a criminal investigation into an August outbreak of norovirus -- a highly contagious cause of gastrointestinal illness -- at a Chipotle restaurant in California.

Chipotle's sales have taken a major hit since more than 50 people fell ill from an E. coli outbreak in nine states between October and November. Last month, 141 Boston College students reported symptoms associated with norovirus after most reported eating at a Chipotle near the school. 

"It's perfectly clear they didn't get food safety at all," Marion Nestle, a nutrition and public health professor at New York University, told HuffPost of the restaurant. "They don't have a culture of food safety."

Shares in Chipotle continued to spiral downward on Friday.