Chipotle struggles to rebound after E. coli and norovirus outbreaks


From it’s humble beginings in 1993, Chipotle has grown into one of biggest and best-known fast food restaurants in the U.S., boasting 2015 sales of $4.5 billion dollars. Chipotle’s success has been due in part to the restaurant’s open commitment to using locally-sourced and chemical and hormone-free ingredients. However, in recent months, the Mexican restaurant’s image has suffered as outbreaks of both E. coli and norovirus were traced to locations in several different states.

Since news of the outbreaks first made headlines, the company’s sales and stock prices have taken a hit. In an effort to repair its image as the socially and health conscious fast food option, all Chipotle locations were closed until 3 p.m. today while the company’s 50,000 employees attended a company-wide meeting about the company’s plans to move forward and improve food safety and handling procedures to prevent future outbreaks of food borne illnesses.

In addition to a damaged reputation and decreased sales, restaurants and food manufacturing companies that fail to take steps to ensure that their food and food products are safe and free of known “disease and allergen contaminations” can be held legally liable for any injuries or deaths that may result.

Under the Food Safety Modernization Act, food-related companies are required to adhere to certain regulations related to hazard analyses. Under what’s known as the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, or HACCP, companies are required to create a written plan detailing the remedial steps they plan to take should any problems or outbreaks occur.

New food safety regulations like the FSMA and HACCP put the responsibility on food companies to ensure that all steps within a food supply product chain are accounted for and companies that are linked to E. coli or other dangerous outbreaks may be held legally liable for their failures.

Source: USA Today, “Chipotle closed until 3 p.m. Monday for food-safety staff meeting,” Hadley Malcolm, Feb. 8, 2016

Food Safety Tech, “5 Ways Food Companies Can Protect Themselves And Customers,” Fritz Kreite, Jan. 22, 2016

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