UPDATE 4-Chipotle sales battered by widening E. coli outbreak
(Adds details on restaurant sales, background on outbreak))
By Lisa Baertlein
LOS ANGELES Dec 4 (Reuters) - A widening U.S. E. coli outbreak has slammed sales at Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc , the company said on Friday, hours after federal authorities reported that people in nine states have now contracted food poisoning.
Shares in the popular burrito chain tumbled nearly 8 percent to $518 in extended trading after Chipotle warned that sales at established restaurants could drop 8 to 11 percent for the fourth quarter from a year earlier. This would be the first such decline in company history.
Investigators said the outbreak could widen again as local agencies upload data. Chipotle said in a regulatory filing that its sales could take more hits from "further developments, including potential additional announcements from federal and state health authorities."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported related E. coli O26 illness in three new states. Forty-seven of the 52 people sickened say they ate at Chipotle before falling ill.
The government investigators added Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania to a list of states that already included California, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Washington. There were seven more U.S cases, with four of those linked to Chipotle.
The company said it has been tightening its food safety procedures.
The source of the outbreak is still unknown. Investigators suspect a fresh produce item that was shipped from one location to multiple restaurants. Continuación...