In the wake of two high-profile food poisoning outbreaks, Chipotle has announced its intention to become a leader in food safety. The fat casual restaurant chain is currently linked to nine-state E. coli outbreak that has sickened 52 people and was linked to a Salmonella outbreak in Minnesota that sickened 64 people in September.
The outbreaks have prompted the company to revamp the food safety and food handling practices at all of its restaurants and throughout its supply chain, the company said in a press release today. Chipotle hopes these changes will position it as a food safety leader in the industry.
Chipotle retained Seattle-based IEH Laboratories to help it identify opportunities to enhance food safety practices throughout its operations. Some of the features of the new program include: the use high-resolution testing on all fresh produce. These tests will be performed on ingredients before they are shipped to restaurants. Another feature will be “end-of-shelf-life testing where ingredient samples will be tested to ensure that quality specifications are maintained throughout the shelf life of an ingredient.”
“While Chipotle’s food safety practices were already well within industry norms, I was asked to design a more robust food safety program to ensure the highest level of safety and the best quality of all meals served at Chipotle,” said Mansour Samadpour, Ph.D., CEO of IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group. “I am happy to report that our proposed program was adopted in its entirety, without any modification. While it is never possible to completely eliminate all risk, this program eliminates or mitigates risk to a level near zero, and will establish Chipotle as the industry leader in this area.”
Health officials identified tomatoes as the source of the Minnesota Salmonella outbreak. A food source for the E. coli outbreak has not been identified.