Chipotle Knew About Food Safety Issues Long Before Telling Customers, Lawsuit Alleges

Chipotle has been trying to salvage its reputation since 2015, when its burritos gave a bunch of customers food poisoning. But now, the Tex-Mex chain has bigger fish to fry. Shareholders believe Chipotle knew about E. coli outbreaks dating back to 2014, which were never made public — so they're trying to revive a lawsuit to recoup the lost value of their investments.

Nation's Restaurant News reports that in a letter to U.S. Judge Katherine Polk Failla, attorney David Rosenfeld said that Freedom of Information Act requests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed an E. coli outbreak involving 12 people in late 2014, eight of which were Chipotle customers.

Shareholders believe that Chipotle knew it had a food safety problem long before it was announced to the public. With this new evidence, they want to resurrect a lawsuit that was filed last year, but dismissed in March.

Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold told Nation's Restaurant News that the letter "is nothing more than a last-ditch effort to try to resurrect that suit."

He continued, "Based on our supply chain information, there was no clear link between the cases they were looking into and any of our restaurants. The notion we didn't report something is nonsense, in that there was nothing conclusive to report."

But Rosenfeld claims that Chipotle was fully aware of an E. coli outbreak at restaurants in Maryland, Michigan, and Virginia before December 3, 2014, that was never publicly disclosed. His letter also mentions that between October 2014 and December 2015, there were 14 outbreaks at the chain: five involving Salmonella, six E. coli, and three norovirus.

Rosenfeld speculates that the company was well aware of its food safety issues and failed to use its ability to test its ingredients. He says the lack of investigation into the issue is "inadequate."

Although the Chipotle isn't scot-free just yet, the company is taking precautionary steps to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. Here are 12 ways Chipotle is trying to win back our trust.