Is It Too Late for Chipotle to Become An “Industry Leader” in Food Safety?

As many as 80 Boston College students, including eight members of the men’s basketball team, came down with symptoms of food poisoning after eating at a Boston Chipotle location this past week.

This comes after an October E. coli outbreak was linked to 11 Chipotle locations in Washington and Oregon. The fast-food chain was also responsible for a salmonella outbreak that sickened over 60 customers in Minnesota this past summer, and an outbreak of norovirus in California that sickened roughly 100 consumers in September.

Have no fear, though: Chipotle proclaimed last week it will “become the industry leader” in food safety. Chipotle’s enhanced food safety program will include “a farm-to-fork assessment of each ingredient Chipotle uses with an eye toward establishing the highest standards for safety.”

In a December 4 press release, Chipotle publicized the following:

“While Chipotle’s food safety practices were already well within industry norms, I was asked to design a more robust food safety program to ensure the highest level of safety and the best quality of all meals served at Chipotle,” said Mansour Samadpour, Ph.D., CEO of IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group. “I am happy to report that our proposed program was adopted in its entirety, without any modification. While it is never possible to completely eliminate all risk, this program eliminates or mitigates risk to a level near zero, and will establish Chipotle as the industry leader in this area.”

Great, but what took so long? As consumers, are you reassured that Chipotle’s food safety practices are “within industry norms?” Are you impressed that risk will be mitigated “to near zero?” Shouldn’t Chipotle know their business model–to provide food served fast using fresh, high-quality raw ingredients—is very susceptible to food borne illnesses? Sure, it is never completely possible to eliminate all risks, but consumers want to know Chipotle is doing everything possible to provide a safe lunch always.

We at Fallston Group know that when a crisis hits you need to proactively provide information and answers in order to gain and maintain stakeholder trust. But as Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

We hope Chipotle will learn from these experiences…for our stomachs’ sake.

 

For more information regarding crisis communications and reputation management, do not hesitate to contact Fallston Group at 410.420.2001 or by email at info@fallstongroup.com.

Photo source cbsnews.com