Inside scoop on Chipotle's adopted Food Safety Plans

adapted from: Inside Chipotle's food safety overhaul by Joel Crews

Since the foodborne illness outbreak in 2015 with 55 cases of E. coli O26 across 11 states followed by the discovery of norovirus at a Boston-based restaurant that reportedly made 80 customers sick, Chipotle Mexican Grill have taken aggressive steps to rebuild its image and bolster its food safety practices. Restaurant margins are slim and customers are quick to learn with information everywhere so it is so important to maintain a healthy image that gains the trust of your customer. As billions in sales along with the stock market value plummeting the company’s founder, Steve Ells, announced his commitment to making the restaurant chain the safest in the industry, which included focusing on vulnerabilities in the supply chain, training its 65,000 employees and enhancing food safety practices at 2,200 locations. 
Chipotle hired two Ph. D food safety experts that adopted technologies to improve the safety of the food. This included two of its suppliers providing sous-vide for the beef, OSI Industries and Ed Miniat L.L.C. “We used to bring raw steak into our restaurants,” said Dr. Dexter, but soon after adopting the technology, the meat suppliers were cooking 800,000 lbs of beef per week to control risks, which also just happened to improve the quality of the product. High pressure processing (HPP) is another intervention adopted by Chipotle to treat its chorizo sausage, another raw product that contains chicken and pork and is shipped to the company’s restaurants each day. Packages of chorizo are shipped to an HPP tolling facility as a final intervention before shipping. The HPP process also increased the shelf life of the sausage to approximately 30 days, according to Dr. Dexter. As for the vegetables used in the eateries, blanching is the kill step used at each location for now, Dr. Dexter said. At each restaurant, two employees are typically scheduled to come in two hours earlier than the rest of the crew with the purpose of immersing avocados, bell peppers, onions, jalapeños and citrus fruits in boiling water for five seconds.

The company has updated its sanitation supplies in the restaurants, said Dr. Dexter, including the use of PURE Bioscience Hard Surface cleaner. Stores were equipped with REME HALO in-duct air purifier systems to address airborne bacteria and IMSB Ice Machine Sanitizer systems to minimize risks associated with ice production.  Chipotle has also partnered for food safety audits in addition to using the expertise of FoodLogiQ as part of its Supplier Management and Traceability Program. Despite the fact the chain only works with 65 ingredients, said Dr. Dexter, “you have to be able to track it; it has to be defensible.” The restaurant operations focused on implementing 12 critical control points, creating a web-based Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan and Bluetooth thermometers linked to a digital alert system.  Training also included HACCP-certifying Chipotle’s 400 Field Leaders and ongoing food safety training with restaurant workers using iPads that are designed to engage employees by entertaining and informing.

Regardless if you are a small production facility or restaurant we know it's important to have a plan in place that creates consistency around serving safe food and ensuring your customers always trust in the hard work you bring to the table day in and day out. Know we will continue to develop state of the art services to ensure, like chipotle, you get to be the best at what you do.