Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG) continues to work closely with state and federal health officials, as the investigation continues into an E. coli incident initially linked to 11 Chipotle restaurants in Washington and Oregon.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduced the number of cases connected to Chipotle from 50 to 37 cases onNovember 18 (with 24 in Washington and 13 in Oregon). This reduction of nearly 25% was based upon more sensitive testing which revealed the cases were not related to Chipotle. The CDC has informed Chipotle that it identified six additional cases in which initial testing matches the E. coli strain involved in the Washington and Oregon incident. Although one of the individuals has no known link to Chipotle, five individuals did report eating at Chipotle, including two in Turlock, Calif., one in Akron, Ohio, one in Amherst, NY, and one in Burnsville, Minn.
Investigators have suggested that in incidents like this, it is not unusual to see additional cases after the initial incident as the investigation moves forward. The source of the problem appears to have been contained during a period in late October. Forty-two of the 43 cases linked to Chipotle, reported visiting one of the restaurants in question between October 13 and October 30. One person reported having eaten November 6.
In response to this incident, Chipotle has taken aggressive steps to make sure its restaurants are as safe as possible. There have been no reported new cases in Washington or Oregon since Chipotle put its remediation plan into effect.
Specifically, the company conducted deep cleaning at the restaurants that have been linked to this incident, replacing ingredients in those restaurants, changing food preparation procedures, providing all necessary supply chain data to investigators, and surveying employees to be sure none have had any symptoms of illness (note: no Chipotle employees in any states have been ill related to this incident). Similar actions are immediately being taken in response to these newly reported cases.
Chipotle is also taking significant steps to be sure all of its food is as safe as possible. Specifically, the company is expanding testing of key ingredients, examining all of its food-safety procedures to find any opportunity for improvement, and is working with two renowned food safety scientists to assess all of its food safety programs, from the farms that provide its food to its restaurants.
“We take this incident very seriously because the safety of our food and wellbeing of our customers is always our highest priority,” saidSteve Ells, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “We are committed to taking any and all necessary actions to make sure our food is as safe as possible, and we are working diligently with the health agencies.”
“We offer our sincerest apologies to those who have been affected,” said Ells. “We will leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety of our food – from enhancing the safety and quality assurance program for all of our fresh produce suppliers, to examining all of our food safety procedures from farm to restaurant, and expanding testing programs for produce, meat and dairy items before they are sent to our restaurants.”
According to the CDC, there are about 48 million cases of food-related illness in the U.S. annually, including 265,000 cases of E. coli. (Original Source)
Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill are currently trading at $536.97, down $74.54 or 12.19%. CMG has a 1-year high of $758.61 and a 1-year low of $551.60. The stock’s 50-day moving average is $664.68 and its 200-day moving average is $672.23.
On the ratings front, Chipotle Mexican has been the subject of a number of recent research reports. In a report issued on November 9, Merrill Lynch analyst Joseph Buckley reiterated a Buy rating on CMG, with a price target of $750, which represents a potential upside of 22.5% from where the stock is currently trading. Separately, on November 6, Robert W. Baird’s David Tarantino downgraded the stock to Hold .
According to TipRanks.com, which ranks over 7,500 financial analysts and bloggers to gauge the performance of their past recommendations, Joseph Buckley and David Tarantino have a total average return of 3.2% and 9.2% respectively. Buckley has a success rate of 67.6% and is ranked #1470 out of 3857 analysts, while Tarantino has a success rate of 54.3% and is ranked #857.
Overall, 6 research analysts have assigned a Hold rating and 10 research analysts have given a Buy rating to the stock. When considering if perhaps the stock is under or overvalued, the average price target is $736.67 which is 20.4% above where the stock opened today.
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc operates Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants, which serves a menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla) and salads, made using fresh ingredients.