Chipotle has had a pretty bad year. In the wake of an E. coli outbreak that resulted in the stock plummeting, consumers disappearing, and a massive drop-off in customer satisfaction, Chipotle has had a hard time getting customers to come back. They’ve tried free burritos, introducing a rewards program, and even announced the addition of chorizo to their menu this fall.
Today’s news is a major setback in Chipotle’s fight to regain credibility. This morning, the well-known thriller and fantasy novelist Eric Van Lustbader (author of, among other books, the post-Robert Ludlum Jason Bourne books), tweeted the following:
This Chipotle thing is still ongoing. My editor ended up in urgent care after being deathly ill all night from eating at Chipotle's.
— Eric Van Lustbader (@EVanLustbader) July 7, 2016
Van Lustbader then explained more about his friend’s circumstances. Apparently, she was sent to the ER for seven hours. After running tests, the doctors found bacteria and surmised that her illness was caused by unsanitary food handling.
In the wake of this news, Chipotle’s stock has fallen again, sinking as much as 3.5 percent — fueling speculation that, despite its best efforts, Chipotle has not regained its customers’ trust yet.
Some have accused Van Lustbader of trying to harm Chipotle’s image and intentionally lower its stock, claims which he has denied. Meanwhile, in the wake of his tweet, another Twitter user reported a similar incident:
— James Chu (@DARTLIFE16) July 7, 2016.
The fast food giants have made an announcement on the reports: "We are aware of the post made on Twitter, however there have been no reports of illnesses at any of our New York restaurants," Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold told Business Insider. "Moreover, we have excellent health department scores throughout the city, and we continue to have the highest standards of food safety in our restaurants."
Regulators gave Chipotle the all-clear last February, and they put in stricter food safety measures. If the company were to have another E. coli outbreak, it could inflict major damage to Chipotle’s public image.