Chipotle Announces Food Safety DNA Testing to Prevent Outbreaks

Chipotle Announces Food Safety DNA Testing to Prevent Outbreaks
Food Safety Contamination

Chipotle’s locations across the country shut down on Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to tune into a livestream from Denver to hear executives discuss their plans for preventing future food poisoning outbreaks.

“Most of the new protocols are already in place, thanks to the hard work and dedication our excellent restaurant teams. Additionally, we have implemented unprecedented food safety standards with our suppliers, which make the food coming into our restaurants safer than ever before,” chairman and CEO Steve Ells said in a statement. [1]

Ellis reassured more than 50,000 employees during the live broadcast that “People will come back.” [2]

The company posted a video clip on Periscope of Ellis highlighting a $10 million program to help Chipotle suppliers – mostly small farmers – shoulder the costs of implementing the Mexican fast-food chain’s new food safety system, which will require more stringent testing.

“That means even the ingredients they sell to other companies will be safe — and that’s good for everybody, not just Chipotle,” Mr. Ells said.

Marketing experts have given Chipotle the thumbs-up for their transparency, which includes admitting that sick employees caused 2 norovirus outbreaks which partly caused the company’s stock to tank and drove many devoted customers away. [3]

In many large cities including Seattle, New York City, and Boston, sales have dropped significantly. Sales at Chipotle establishments open at least a year fell 14.6% in the last quarter of last year.

Tomatoes were implicated in salmonella outbreaks in Minnesota and Wisconsin. “That’s one of the reasons why we no longer dice tomatoes in our restaurants,” the company said in a statement Monday.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigation that wrapped up last week failed to undercover the source of E. coli outbreaks linked to Chipotle.

The company has shifted some of its food preparation from individual kitchens to its central kitchens, including blanching ingredients and modifying how it marinates steak and chicken. Chipotle will also DNA-test its ingredients to ensure they are pathogen-free before shipping them to restaurants. A company statement said the technique is “a testing program that far exceeds requirements of state and federal regulatory agencies, as well as industry standards.”

Chipotle launched a bonus program that will reward individual restaurants on food safety measures. And while many companies pressure employees to come to work sick, the chain is offering its employees paid time off to give them an incentive to stay home if they’re not feeling well.


[1] Forbes

[2] The New York Times Paul J. Richards/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

[3] CNBC