Chipotle will briefly close all of its stores February 8 for a companywide food safety meeting. The meeting is to mark a new start for the company’s new food safety program designed to prevent the problems that plagued the company last year.
During 2015, Chipotle was linked to two (or three) E.coli outbreaks, a Salmonella outbreak and two Norovirus outbreaks, one of which is the subject of a criminal probe being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Office of Criminal Investigations.
In addition to the ongoing, well-publicized, nine-state E. coli o26 outbreak that sickened 53 people in October and early November, another cluster of five illnesses in three states caused by a different strain of E. coli O26 occurred in late November. At the time of the CDC’s last update, those cases were not considered part of the other E. coli O26 outbreak but could eventually get lumped in to one, two-strain outbreak. The third E. coli outbreak happened before the others and was not made public. It sickened five people in the Seattle area with E. coli O157:H7 during July.
After the nine-state E. coli outbreak, Chipotle hired IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group of Lake Forest Park, Wa. Some of Chipotle’s new food safety measures include: the use high-resolution testing on all fresh produce before it is shipped to restaurants and “end-of-shelf-life” testing where ingredient samples are tested to ensure they remain food safe throughout their shelf lives. The company has also changed some suppliers and food preparation procedures.