Food For Thought: Lessons Learned From The Chipotle Case

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released its findings from their investigation into the E. coli outbreaks that have plagued fast-food giant Chipotle across 14 states. The investigation did not identify any specific food item or ingredient that could definitively explain the outbreak.

One reason the CDC gave for not being able to pinpoint the cause is that when a restaurant serves food with several ingredients that are mixed or cooked together and then used in multiple menu items, it can be more difficult for epidemiologic studies to identify the specific ingredient that is contaminated.

While the investigation suggested that a common meal item or ingredient was the likely source no smoking gun was found and it leaves Chipotle, investigators and the public wondering what happened.

It also left Chipotle with sagging stock prices and slumping in-store sales figures, a black eye to its brand image, the specter of additional investigative and regulatory action, and having to spend tens of millions of dollars on messaging to win back the trust of loyal burrito-eating consumers across the country.

Was it a preventable problem in food handling or preparation protocols, was it a supplier issue or was something criminal involved as has been suggested with federal prosecutors issuing subpoenas and broadening their investigation?

The entire episode serves as an important reminder of the importance of having verifiable food safety and documentation protocols in place for any facility that processes, stores or serves food.

In their report the CDC specifically mentioned the food industry is an important partner in making food safer for everyone. The report says food industry professionals can help stop outbreaks and lessen their impact with detailed recordkeeping to allow faster tracing of food shipments from their source to their final destination.

Sprague understands the importance of having a verifiable pest management program that prevents and eliminates bacteria-carrying pests from coming into contact with processed and unprocessed food. We also assist clients maintaining accurate, up-to-date records that demonstrate exactly what has been done to safeguard the facility from harmful pests.

Achieving superior levels of food safety is a partnership with the client and their vendors, including pest management. Sprague works with food industry professionals to review sanitation, storage and shipping protocols, identify weak points in the process that could make food vulnerable to contamination by pests or other vectors, and provide peace of mind that products are pest-free and secure for consumers.

Food Retail & Grocery