We did a piece previously on the recent E Coli problems at Chipotle, the burrito restaurant chain in the US – over 40 consumers infected with food poisoning, 43 temporary restaurant closures.

One of the consequences of the incident is that Chipotle are now rowing back on their longstanding brand position and commitment of “buying fresh locally”.

The cause of the outbreak is still unclear, but the evidence suggests an ingredient, or “common meal item” was the source of the illnesses, according to the Centre for Disease Control.

The company issued the following statement regarding local supply:

“We have elevated requirements for all of our produce suppliers (chiefly in the area of testing of ingredients) and we are not sure that all of the current local suppliers will be able to meet those elevated protocols…”

The lessons from this story from an independent foodservice business perspective are clear:

  • The consequences of a serious food contamination issue can shut down a food business.
  • Sourcing products or ingredients that fit a marketing slogan, a price point, or a quality stance must be backed up by certainty about the food safety of the product or ingredient.
  • If a 1,700 store restaurant chain can be compromised to such an extent, despite all their resources and testing, then what chance does a single store owner have?
  • Rely on your suppliers who have a formal, recognised, and audited food safety system in place. This reduces your businesses exposure to food safety risks. And don’t be afraid to ask for the information.
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