After an E. coli outbreak among its eateries in Seattle and Portland, Oregon, Chipotle made the executive decision Tuesday to close 43 of their restaurants. According to health officials, 12 people in the Portland area, and 25 in Washington State got sick after eating at Chipotle. According to Bloomberg Business, there have been no deaths, but at least 12 affected by the outbreak have been hospitalized. In response to this outbreak, food safety consulting firms have been hired to test ingredients in hopes of resolving the health scare, and any food leftover in the locations has been replaced. Though officials have not found the source of the issue, only eight of the 43 restaurants have drawn serious concern. Chipotle said it closed all the locations “out of an abundance of caution.” Hopefully cleaning out and testing its locations will put this issue to rest.
Co-CEO Steve Ells told Bloomberg, “We work with a number of very fresh ingredients in order to serve our customers the highest-quality, best-tasting food we can.” Reading this statement, I was reassured about the way I view Chipotle’s food. I’ve always thought I could trust Chipotle for this reason, and many of my friends would say the same. Chipotle has created an expectation that the food cooked and served is high quality and very fresh. You even see signs on the menu right when you walk in about holding themselves to the highest standards.
The way I’ve always categorized Chipotle is “healthy” fast food. Yes, everything is relative, but in relation to many other fast food chains I feel most inclined to eat at Chipotle. It tastes good, not like it’s made with tons of grease, butter or sodium. Chipotle has made itself into a desirable chain and a reputable one as well, so this E. coli scare causes some hesitation on my part.
The chain that I thought held itself to the highest standard had to close 43 of its restaurants due to an E. coli scare — that’s nothing to brush aside. It’s not about a lack of cleanliness or failure to adequately check the food. Yes, that’s part of the reason, but I would categorize this as more of a freak accident. No reputable chain would purposely allow its cleanliness to fall under the radar to the point where this happens. It could happen anywhere to anyone.
I definitely have questioned eating at Chipotle in the near future, but not out of doubt that they don’t care about their customers. It is more out of personal caution. Knowing that this has happened across the country, I still take into consideration that it’s a possibility. I put my trust in their ability to buy and cook food safe for consumption, but the moral of the story is that you just never know. I recognize that my outlook on the situation may be more positive than most, but I’m still hesitant to eat there, which makes me think that Chipotle will have some challenges maintaining business for the next few months.
People have a right to be nervous about getting sick from their food, and for a while people will be cautious about eating there until they can regain trust in Chipotle’s quality. They are now doing everything they can to test the food, but regardless, customers want to know that what happened to many in Seattle and Portland will not happen to them. Most customers will want to be reassured that all of their locations have been inspected and tested before continuing to eat in a place where the possibility for an E. coli outbreak is not far off. Any time breaking news comes out about potential health among trusted franchises, customers have to second-guess eating there. Maybe there are many who haven’t been affected by this scare, but I certainly keep it in the back of mind. Any health scare is one to be cautious about.