Chipotle says the cost of its extensive new food safety measures will not be passed on to consumers in the form of price hikes on menu items. The new measures, which Chipotle hopes will make it an industry leader in food safety, were prompted by recent food poisoning outbreaks including a nine-state E. coli outbreak that has sickened 52 people and a Salmonella outbreak that sickened 64 people in Minnesota.
The Salmonella outbreak was linked to tomatoes grown in Florida. The food source of the E. coli outbreak has not been discovered.
For one Washington woman, an ingredient in a burrito bowl was the source of illness, according to a lawsuit filed by the national food safety law firm Pritzker Olsen. She ordered the meal from a Vancouver location on October 21 and began experiencing symptoms of an E. coli infection, including abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea about three days later
Symptoms of an E. coli infection, which include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, vomiting and sometimes a fever of less than 101˚F, usually develop one to three days after exposure and last about a week. Those at highest risk include children, seniors and those with compromised immune systems.
By state, the case count is as follows: California (3), Illinois (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (1), and Washington (27).
Health officials initially thought the outbreak only involved Chipotle locations in Washington and Oregon. The company made the unprecedented decision to close all locations in those states during the investigation.
During a 10-day closure, Chipotle deep-cleaned, sanitized and supplied with all the locations with new ingredients. It tested all fresh produce, raw meat, and dairy items before re-stocking. The company also tested all employees for E. coli infections; there were no positives, an indicator that food was contaminated before it entered the restaurants.
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.”