Chipotle Commits to Become Industry Leader in Food Safety
Chipotle investigation with CDC & FDA continues; no illnesses have occurred as a result of exposure occurring after early November, but additional cases may be reported as states get data to federal agencies.
DENVER - (BUSINESS WIRE) - December 4, 2015 - Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) has taken aggressive actions to implement industry-leading food safety and food handling practices in all of its restaurants and throughout its supply chain. Its enhanced food safety program will establish Chipotle at the forefront of food safety protocols in the restaurant industry.
"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."
Work on Chipotle's enhanced food safety program began immediately after reports surfaced at the end of October that linked 11 Chipotle locations in Washington and Oregon to E. coli cases in those states. Even though there is no evidence of exposures after the period of October 13 to November 7, and no new illnesses have occurred since then, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated that additional cases may yet be reported as cases make their way through various state health departments to the federal health officials.
Specifically, Chipotle has set an objective to achieve the highest level of safety possible. The company retained Seattle-based IEH Laboratories to help it identify opportunities to enhance food safety practices throughout its operations - from the farms that supply its food to its restaurants that prepare and serve it.
Chipotle's enhanced food safety program is the product of a comprehensive reassessment of its food safety practices conducted with IEH Laboratories that included a farm-to-fork assessment of each ingredient Chipotle uses with an eye toward establishing the highest standards for safety. Specifically, program components include:
- Implementing high-resolution testing of all fresh produce in which a series of DNA-based tests will ensure the quality and safety of ingredients before they are shipped to restaurants, a testing program that far exceeds requirements of state and federal regulatory agencies, as well as industry standards.
- Initiating 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.
- Pursuing continuous improvements throughout its supply chain using data from test results to enhance the ability to measure the performance of its vendors and suppliers.
- Enhancing internal training to ensure that all employees thoroughly understand the company's high standards for food safety and food handling.
Thousands of food sample tests from Chipotle restaurants linked to the incident have shown no E. coli. No ingredients that are likely to have been connected to this incident remain in Chipotle's restaurants or in its supply system. No Chipotle employees have been identified as having E. coli since this incident began.
"When I opened the first Chipotle 22 years ago, I offered a focused menu of just a few things made with fresh ingredients and prepared using classic cooking techniques," said Steve Ells, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. "We do the same thing today, even with nearly 2,000 restaurants, and we are working harder than ever to ensure that our food is safe and delicious."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 48 million cases of food-related illness in the U.S. annually, including 265,000 cases of E. coli.
Since this incident began, Chipotle has continued to serve more than 1 million customers a day in its restaurants nationwide without incident.
Additional information about this incident is available online at Chipotle.com/update.
Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO, started Chipotle with the idea that food served fast did not have to be a typical fast food experience. Today, Chipotle continues to offer a focused menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla) and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients, prepared using classic cooking methods and served in a distinctive atmosphere. Through our vision of Food With Integrity, Chipotle is seeking better food from using ingredients that are not only fresh, but that--where possible--are sustainably grown and raised responsibly with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food. In order to achieve this vision, we focus on building a special people culture that is centered on creating teams of top performers empowered to achieve high standards. This people culture not only leads to a better dining experience for our customers, it also allows us to develop future leaders from within. Chipotle opened with a single restaurant in 1993 and operates more than 1,900 restaurants, including 17 Chipotle restaurants outside the US, 11 ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen restaurants, and is an investor in an entity that owns and operates three Pizzeria Locale restaurants. For more information, visit Chipotle.com.
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