Chipotle’s seventh food poisoning outbreak in the last 3 years
(Fox News) A Chipotle restaurant is under scrutiny after 703 people reportedly fell ill after eating at the burrito chain.
The Powell, Ohio location shut down after facing complaints from sick customers since July 26.
Food from the store is still being tested, said a local health spokeswoman.
“We acted quickly and closed this single restaurant out of an abundance of caution and we are working with the local health officials to reopen this restaurant as soon as possible,” a Chipotle spokeswoman said via email.
At least two more lawsuits have been filed.
“This is the first of many lawsuits we will be filing on behalf of residents who were sickened by contaminated Chipotle food,” said attorney Ron Simon.
“These lawsuits will force Chipotle to make its food safer … ” Read the full story at Fox News.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
- Number of locations: 2,250 (2017)
- Area served: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France
- Number of employees: 64,570 (2017)
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. is an American chain of fast casual restaurants specializing in tacos and Mission-style burritos.
Its name derives from chipotle, the Nahuatl name for a smoked and dried jalapeño chili pepper.
The company trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol CMG.
Since 2008, a former Kansas State University food safety professor has accused Chipotle of confusing the public by using such terms as “naturally raised meats“, “organic ingredients”, and “locally sourced” and trying to equate those terms with food safety.
In rebuttal, a Chipotle spokesperson told The Daily Beast that “all of our practices have always been very much within industry norms. It’s important to note that restaurant practices are regulated by health codes, and restaurants are routinely inspected by health officials. Everything we have done in our supply chain and in our restaurants has been within industry norms.”
Yet, FiveThirtyEight pointed out that the 2015 norovirus outbreak appears to be unusual and others are criticizing their food sourcing or handling practices.
MarketWatch wrote that the result of all of these outbreaks will be to force Chipotle to obtain their produce from larger corporate farms that can afford the more extensive microbial food-safety testing programs and to process vegetables at centralized locations instead of at the individual stores, both of which are industry-standard practices that the company had previously criticized.
The New York Times implied that the company’s insistence on maintaining its long standing rhetoric about “food integrity” seemed to be quite opposite with the realities of recent current events and made it appear that the management was just ignoring their current problems.
It also has been pointed out that Chipotle’s current record-keeping system is actually hindering the health authorities’ investigation in locating the sources of the various infections.
A writer for the magazine Popular Science pointed out that Chipotle had publicly acknowledged that they “may be at a higher risk for food-borne illness outbreaks than some competitors due to our use of fresh produce and meats rather than frozen, and our reliance on employees cooking with traditional methods rather than automation.”
Henry I. Miller, a medical researcher and columnist and the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology, asked: “One wonders whether Chipotle’s “traditional methods” include employees’ neglecting to wash their hands before preparing food, which is how norovirus is usually spread. And the fresh versus frozen dichotomy is nothing more than a snow-job. Freezing E. coli-contaminated food does not kill the pathogens; it preserves them.”
Describing food poisoning outbreaks as “something of a Chipotle trademark; the recent ones are the fourth and fifth this year, one of which was not disclosed to the public”, Miller notes that “a particularly worrisome aspect of the company’s serial deficiencies is that there have been at least three unrelated pathogens in the outbreaks – Salmonella and E. coli bacteria and norovirus.
In other words, there has been more than a single glitch; suppliers and employees have found a variety of ways to contaminate what Chipotle cavalierly sells (at premium prices) to its customers.”
Consequences of the multiple incidents in 2015
On February 8, 2016, Chipotle closed all of its eateries nationwide for a few hours during the morning for an all-staff meeting on food safety.
The company hired a new head of food safety, who instituted changes including having all employees wash hands every half hour, having two employees verify that produce like onions, jalapeños and avocados have been immersed in hot water for five seconds to kill germs on their exteriors, and using Pascalization to pre-treat food ingredients.
Since the series of food-poisoning outbreaks in 2015 lowered trust in the product, Chipotle has tried to lure back its customers with free food and heavier advertising. Same-store sales increased 17.8% percent in the first quarter of 2017.
July 2017 norovirus outbreak
Despite corrective actions, the company faced another setback in implementing their safe food policies in July 2017. A norovirus outbreak is being investigated in Virginia.
More than 130 people reported having norovirus-like symptoms and two individuals had tested positive for the virus after eating at a Chipotle restaurant in Sterling, Virginia. The Loudoun County Health Department confirmed the illnesses from July 13–16, 2017.
Shares of Chipotle’s stock stumbled more than 10% on this news and also the news that customers had posted videos of mice skittering through a Chipotle restaurant in Dallas just a few days before the norovirus incident was reported.
On July 25, several news agencies reported that Chipotle officials confirmed that the “recent norovirus outbreak in Virginia was the result of lax sick policy enforcement by store managers” and that the company believed that an employee was the cause of the outbreak.
July 2018 complaints
Ohio public health officials launched an investigation after receiving 368 complaints from customers after they had eaten at a Powell, Ohio location.
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