Chipotle began to experience a series of foodborne illness incidents in Aug. 2015 that led to what is now expected to be a $14 to $16-million scandal, according to CNN. Sixty-four Minnesota customers suffered from salmonella, approximately 100 Southern Californians and 140 Boston College students were infected with norovirus and 53 people in nine other states got E. coli.
Fueled by a large amount of media attention, especially through social media, the outbreaks led to a huge drop in sales, the closing of dozens of Chipotle locations and a fair amount of lawsuits against the company.
It all sounds pretty bad. However, the company has done a fantastic job in being honest to its
customers about the situation and providing several permanent solutions. Chipotle has been building its “Food With Integrity” reputation since it first opened in the ’90s. The company has gained millions of followers nationwide by using organic ingredients and the most naturally raised meat in the fast food industry. Ever since the unfortunate E. coli and norovirus outbreaks gained massive media attention at the end of last year, the company has done nothing but work to defend and gain back its loyal customers.
The last case of any of the foodborne illnesses was more than two months ago, and I am sure we have all done our fair share of mourning over our guacamole and chips deprivation over winter break. But the fact is that it is time to put our black cloaks away and get back to eating a carnitas burrito.
“We know that Chipotle is as safe as it’s ever been before,” founder Steve Ells stated Wednesday at a conference in Orlando, Florida.
Ells released an apology letter in December where he explained what went wrong in the process of ensuring safe ingredients and the steps that the company has been taking to prevent similar incidents.
Chipotle’s new campaign beginning in February, as reported by multiple news outlets, includes the shutting down of all of its restaurants nationwide on Feb. 8 for a national food safety staff meeting.
“Chipotle said the meeting would provide an opportunity to thank employees, discuss changes and answer questions,” CNN reported.
Alongside implementing extensive testing on all fresh produce and animal-based ingredients, intensifying training of employees and establishing on-shelf testing routines, the Chipotle brand has done nothing but try to control the unfortunate situation.
“In the end, it may not be possible for anyone to completely eliminate all risk with regard to food (or from any environment where people congregate), but we are confident that we can achieve near zero risk,” Ells said in his letter, which is available on the Chipotle website.
Ells is right. Even though we don’t really think about it, food is one of those things that will always be a risk. If we want to eat out, it is our responsibility as consumers to choose the places we eat wisely. Food trucks and street tacos might not be the best idea, but in my opinion, Chipotle’s administration is working tirelessly to clear its name and I plan on resuming my weekly guacamole and chips routine this semester.