Chipotle faces adversity after E. coli breakout

Due to E. coli cases in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon, Chipotle Mexican Grill temporarily closed 43 locations in the surrounding cities, launched an advanced food safety program and will close all stores Feb. 8 across the United States for nationwide food safety training.

All locations will be closed while employees are instructed in how to conduct the newest food-safety procedures.

While the culprit of the E. coli outbreak is unknown, Chipotle assures its customers they are taking aggressive precautions to combat further foodborne illness. On Dec. 10, Steve Ells, Chipotle founder, chairman and co-CEO, spoke with Matt Lauer on NBC’s “Today Show,” reaching out to those affected by the E. coli and assuring the public of Chipotle’s commitment to quality and freshness of product.

“We are doing a lot to rectify this and to make sure this does not  happen again,” Ells said.

In an open letter to the public, Ells says, “In the end, it may not be possible for anyone to completely eliminate all risk with regard to food (or from any environment where people congregate), but we are confident that we can achieve near zero risk. Chipotle is an incredibly focused company. Our menu has remained virtually unchanged for the last 22 years and we only have 64 ingredients in our food. Rest assured that we have looked at each of these ingredients, where they come from and how they can be made even safer. I believe our restaurants are safer today than they have ever been.”

E. coli is a bacterium that is generally harmless. However, some strains of it can cause diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract and can be transmitted through water or food that is contaminated.

The new standards come from a recent collaboration with food safety consulting firm IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group, based in Seattle and headed by Dr. Mansour Samadpour, founder and CEO.

“Our collaboration with IEH is in an effort to establish Chipotle as an industry leader in food safety,” said Chris Arnold, communications director and official spokesman of Chipotle, in a direct message on Twitter.

IEH is working closely with Chipotle’s supply chain and operations department to develop and implement industry-leading practices, expected to be fully implemented in the next four months.

The new food safety procedures will include safety testing of ingredients, safer food handling and preparation, increased education and training of crew members, as well as audits and assessments on a weekly and quarterly basis. The practices will bring Chipotle’s already industry-advanced precautions to new levels.

According to CNN Money, almost 500 people across the U.S. have been infected with E. coli because of Chipotle since August 2015.

With the recent E. coli cases the launch of the new food safety procedures is timely.

Mona Figueroa, sophomore liberal arts major, said she feels Chipotle is taking full responsibility for the sudden E. coli outbreak.

“With the number of people with E. coli and the vast locations, it suggests that they were doing something wrong,” Figueroa said. “I am glad they admit the error and are taking precautions to do something about it.”

While it is difficult to combat foodborne illnesses absolutely, the new precautions assure consumers that Chipotle cares about the health of their
customer.

However, it has been voiced that not everyone feels confident trusting Chipotle with their health. Tiara Spirlin, junior film major, said she does not see herself eating at Chipotle again, regardless of health and safety procedural changes.

“I was not a huge fan  (of Chipotle) to begin with,” Spirlin said. “Since I heard about the E. coli, I have avoided it altogether. I do not think they will change their procedures enough to end E. coli.”

About Jennifer Schmidt

Asst. News Editor

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