After a multistate E. coli outbreak that sickened 45 people across 6 states was traced back to food sold at Chipotle restaurants, the company says it is taking aggressive action to tighten and enhance its food safety standards and practices.
The Mexican restaurant chain has hired IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group of Seattle, WA to help improve its food safety system.
“While Chipotle’s food safety practices were already well within industry norms, I was asked to design a more robust food safety program to ensure the highest level of safety and the best quality of all meals served at Chipotle,” says Mansour Samadpour, CEO of IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group. “I am happy to report that our proposed program was adopted in its entirety, without any modification. While it is never possible to completely eliminate all risk, this program eliminates or mitigates risk to a level near zero, and will establish Chipotle as the industry leader in this area.”
Work on Chipotle’s enhanced food safety program began immediately after reports surfaced at the end of October that linked 11 Chipotle locations in Washington and Oregon to E. coli cases in those states. Even though there is no evidence of exposures after the period of October 13 to November 7, and no new illnesses have occurred since then, officials at CDC have indicated that additional cases may yet be reported.
Chipotle’s enhanced food safety program is the product of a comprehensive reassessment of its food safety practices conducted with IEH Laboratories that included a farm-to-fork assessment of each ingredient Chipotle uses with an eye toward establishing the highest standards for safety. Specifically, program components include:
-Implementing high-resolution testing of all fresh produce in which a series of DNA-based tests will ensure the quality and safety of ingredients before they are shipped to restaurants, a testing program that exceeds requirements of state and federal regulatory agencies, as well as industry standards.
-Initiating end-of-shelf-life testing where ingredient samples will be tested to ensure that quality specifications are maintained throughout the shelf life of an ingredient.
-Pursuing continuous improvements throughout its supply chain using data from test results to enhance the ability to measure the performance of its vendors and suppliers.
-Enhancing internal training to ensure that all employees thoroughly understand the company’s high standards for food safety and food handling.
The company says thousands of food sample tests from Chipotle restaurants linked to the incident have shown no presence of E. coli and no ingredients that are likely to have been connected to this incident remain in Chipotle’s restaurants or in its supply system.