Chipotle deals with norovirus, E. coli outbreaks

Posted at 7:44 PM, Dec 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 21:44:52-05

On the heels of an E. coli outbreak in nine states, Chipotle is dealing with the norovirus in Massachusetts. 

The outbreaks are raising new questions about the environmental cost of fresh ingredients. But is there is a trade-off between fresh food and food safety? 

"Chipotle, sadly, is suffering from the law of averages," said David Dyjack, Dr. PH, CIH, executive director of National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). "Over time, this is going to occur to almost any organization, any retail food outlet."

Because Chipotle sources from multiple local suppliers, there appears to be more legwork tracking the contaminated product. But restaurants that use one main distributor don't have that problem.

"It might be harder to trace multiple providers versus one provider," said Dyjack. "Ultimately, this is about employee health -- ensuring employees picking food, processing food and serving food are healthy when they come to the workplace."

Dyjack says this is not a Chipotle problem, this is a hygiene problem, especially where food is prepared by hand.

"What I hear from individuals working in the retail restaurant industry, is they have to train people how to wash their hands," said Dyjack.

But how can a company that prides itself on "Food with integrity" not be able to figure out which ingredient is contaminated? Dyjack said the answer lies in all of the options customers have to choose from.

"Where there are foods mixed in the kitchen, it may be difficult to pinpoint one individual source," said Dyjack.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in six Americans gets sick from contaminated foods or drinks every year. 


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