Media outlets and the Twittersphere are indulging in a feeding frenzy about illnesses possibly linked to Chipotle Mexican Grill locations in New York City, but health officials say no confirmed cases have been reported. Chipotle’s corporate spokesman also says the aren’t any reports of illnesses from the burrito chain’s more than 60 locations in the Big Apple. And, the author of the message that started Chipotle’s stock tumbling Thursday morning tempered his comments quickly, signaling he was done with the topic a few hours after his initial 7:20 a.m. Tweet. The series of tweets from best-selling author Eric van Lustbader, known for his Jason Bourne spy thrillers, likely wouldn’t have generated the media coverage or Wall Street reactions if they had come from an unknown source. Here’s a sampling of the Twitter thread, in chronological order, including the author’s responses to Twitter followers, and ending with the Tweet he posted at 11:50 a.m. Thursday:
- This Chipotle thing is still ongoing. My editor ended up in urgent care after being deathly ill all night from eating at Chipotle’s
- She. Was sent to the ER, spent 7hrs there. Bacteria found. Drs surmise from unsan food handling. In UC to get 2 liters fluid
- Hey let’s get all this Chipotle thing straight. I am just worried abt by friend’s health. Period. Just reported what she told me
- She told me Columbus & 98-100 sts. Please everyone calm down.
- ER drs told her bacteria was from unsan food handling. I know nothing else. Not accusing anyone of anything.
- I will no longer answer abt the incident. I tweeted because I was worried that my friend got so sick.Didn’t want it to happen to anyone else
Media reports ranged from three-paragraph briefs to full-length stories using the Twitter storm as a news peg to rehash Chipotle’s six confirmed foodborne illness outbreaks in 2015 that sent the company into crisis mode as sales and stock value plummeted. The cable news network CNBC posted one of the most tantalizing headlines: “Bourne indigestion: Jason Bourne novelist tanks Chipotle stock with one tweet.” Indeed, Chipotle’s shares closed at $390.78 on Thursday, down 2.6 percent. While that’s a far cry from their high of more than $750 a year ago, CNBC’s assessment that the novelist tanked the stock with one tweet smacks of sensationalism. Fortune provided more context with its report, stating “Van Lustbader also clarified that he did not own Chipotle stock after some people accused him of trying to manipulate the price.” For the record, a check of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s restaurant inspection grades shows 60 of the 66 Chipotle restaurants listed as having received “A” ratings for inspections done in 2015 and so far this year. Two of the Chipotle locations earned “B” ratings — one in Manhattan in August 2015 and one in Brooklyn in January this year. The rating for a Chipotle location in the Bronx, which was inspected June 14, is still pending. Three other Chipotle locations have “not yet graded” ratings. They are in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan. A spokesman for the NYC health department said all complaints of possible foodborne illnesses are investigated, but not all complaints result in “field inspections” of the establishments involved. As with local, state and federal health agencies across the country, the NYC department may not receive a report of a suspected foodborne illness for several days or weeks after a person falls ill. Factors such as delayed or misdiagnosis and the time needed for laboratory tests contribute to the lag time. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)