SEATTLE, Dec. 24 (UPI) — Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants announced plans to modify its sanitation procedures, including additional pathogen testing and weekly food safety audits, in a bid to shore up food safety and win back wary customers after recent E. coli outbreaks.
Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder and co-chief executive, announced the struggling eatery will be implementing food-safety changes “that dramatically reduces risk on our farms, throughout the supply chain, and in our restaurants. The process began with a farm-to-fork risk assessment of every ingredient and all of our restaurant protocols and procedures.”
The company partnered with food safety experts IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group, with a “goal of establishing leadership in food safety.”
“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,” he said. “Our menu has remained virtually unchanged for the last 22 years and we only have 64 ingredients in our food. Rest assured that we have looked at each of these ingredients, where they come from and how they can be made even safer. I believe our restaurants are safer today than they have ever been.”
The company will take a four-pronged approach to changes: DNA-based food testing before ingredients are shipped to restaurants, upgraded ingredients handling and preparation, better employee training, and increased food handling audits and assessments.
Chipotle has been linked to nearly 500 foodborne illnesses after two Chipotle-related E.coli and norovirus outbreaks since this past summer. On Dec. 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked five new cases of E. coli to multiple Chipotle restaurants in Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma.
Chipotle stocks have tumbled 31 percent since it reported third-quarter earnings on Oct. 20 and 21 percent since Nov. 3.