On the morning of Tuesday, January 5, it was made public that Chipotle was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury due to its foodborne illness outbreaks—and the Simi Valley norovirus outbreak in particular—that have spread across the nation. This is certainly a landmark event in American food safety history and it puts the non-GMO, healthy-ingredient burrito chain in a very curious position.
In total, Chipotle has been blamed for six foodborne outbreaks, which happened during the last half of the year in 2015. These outbreaks occurred in multiple locations from Boston to southern California. Chipotle’s stock price has plummeted and people all around the nation—from consumers to environmental health regulators—are waiting for the company to make this situation right.
Bill Marler, a highly-respected food safety lawyer in the industry, recently wrote a not-so-subtle article about Chipotle for FoodSafetyNews.com in which he lays out twelve steps to recovery. The steps are, not surprisingly, largely centered around improving food safety culture. For instance, in step six, Marler suggests that Chipotle implement and utilize “a sustainable food safety program that brings even more meaning to [the] core value of ‘food with integrity.’”
The existence of a vibrant food safety culture empowered by an effective food safety program absolutely cannot be understated.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the entire Chipotle outbreak is that the company has long boasted of their commitment to healthy practices. Much of this rhetoric has been focused on the quality of the food they serve; however, health and wellness is not always related to quality. As Marler rightly notes in his article, “Bacteria and viruses do not care a whit if my food’s ingredients are organic, sustainable, non-GMO, and humanely raised.” This means that a new focus needs to be put on food worker behavior—from the way food is received into each store to the way the food is served to the customer.
Fortunately for Chipotle (and every other food service company), there are solutions that fit this need. When it comes to the best food safety training, paired with the best technology and the best service, there’s only one place to which companies can turn: StateFoodSafety.com. Our online food safety training courses effectively empower a culture of food safety and our offerings can be customized to meet the needs of any company ready to make food safety a priority.
So take a lesson from Chipotle—and Marler—and focus on creating a culture of food safety in the new year.