How will Chipotle prevent another health scare?

Posted at 5:39 PM, Feb 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-08 17:41:24-05

CINCINNATI -- Chipotle employees gathered in movie theaters and hotel conference rooms around the country to watch a presentation by executives about the company's food safety procedures.

The meeting on Monday came as Chipotle kicks off a push to rally workers and win back customers after being hit by a series of food scares.

How safe is your favorite Chipotle? Click here to read, watch and use the interactive map.

To apologize for the lunchtime restaurant closures, Chipotle offered free burritos for customers with the code "raincheck." Chipotle's competitors were quick to jump on the opportunity to one-up the offer or remind customers that their restaurants are E. Coli free.

Here are some highlights of what employees were told during Monday's meeting:


Chipotle noted that an illness can spread quickly and widely in restaurants, and urged workers to stay home if they're experiencing symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. The company reminded employees it offers three paid sick days a year.

It also noted procedures for when workers get sick on site.

"When anyone vomits in the back of the house or the front line, this is a red event, which means we close the restaurant immediately," said Gretchen Selfridge, a restaurant support officer.


The company noted handwashing helps remove the risk of cross contamination. As such, it noted that employees must wash their hands at the top of each hour, as well at times listed on a "handwashing poster."

Handwashing should last for at least 20 seconds, the company said, and be followed with an alcohol-based sanitizer. The two should always be done in combination.


Monty Moran, co-CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., urged employees to ensure restaurants and bathrooms are spotless, since people associate cleanliness with food safety. He said it was more important than ever for the company to ensure restaurants are "super clean."


Steak and chicken are to be marinated after 8 p.m., after all other ingredients have been prepped and put away. The company outlined the steps for mixing the chicken and marinade, such as smelling inside the bag to check for freshness, and washing and sanitizing hands before putting on gloves to mix the meat.


Lemons, onions, avocados and other produce that are chopped in the restaurants and haven't been pre-washed need to be blanched for five seconds to kill germs.

Selfridge noted that the blanching should be exactly 5 seconds - "not three, and not 10." Anything less than 5 seconds won't kill microbes, and anything more would begin to cook the produce, she said.