Thursday, December 10, 2015

Chipotle needs to clean house (literally)

So Chipotle is back in the news for yet another norovirus outbreak. This is in addition to the E. coli outbreak that occurred in several states back in October. So far, 120 Boston College students have been sicked with the norovirus after eating at a Boston Chipotle and have been tested for E. coli as well (those tests are still being processed).
People stand inside a closed Chipotle restaurant Monday in the Cleveland Circle neighborhood of Boston. Steven Senne / AP
Essentially, Chipotle is in serious trouble here due to a mess of their own making. They created a marketing campaign against genetically modified organisms (only removing a few and keeping the majority of them in their soda and cheese) based entirely upon providing food with integrity. Yet they have had serious issues with food safety since they launched the campaign. Some people are claiming a crazy conspiracy against Chipotle is being orchestrated by Monsanto et al.
An example of the conspiracy theories being used here. Hat tip to A Science Enthusiast and The Credible Hulk
However, it is far more likely that employees are not washing their hands and cross contaminating vegetables with raw meat than a company about the size of Whole Foods is riding dirty. Not to be out done, Chipotle is blaming both the media and the CDC for bad PR they are experiencing. They are upset at the media for reporting on outbreaks originating in their stores and they are mad at the CDC for reporting the outbreak statistics each week (based on the numbers they receive from healthcare officials) rather than wait until the end of the outbreak to report the total number. First of all, that is an insane suggestion and will never happen. The CDC releases these weekly numbers so that healthcare officials know what to look for in the case of a large scale outbreak from say a restaurant chain. Second, the CDC and the media are not to blame for Chipotle having what appears to be substandard policies for enforcing the health codes in their restaurants. Chipotle is in serious trouble unless they make some serious changes here. You cannot have food with integrity when you have routine outbreaks of food-borne pathogens.

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