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Chipotle Won't Pass the Buck on Improved Food Safety Measures

The chain doesn't plan to punish customers for its problems.

Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Following the public health nightmare of a multi-state E. coli outbreak, Chipotle will take financial responsibility for better food safety. CEO Steve Ells told the Associated Press Tuesday the burrito chain will not increase prices to offset the cost of any new procedures.

The decision is pretty much a no-brainer. Considering the headlines Chipotle has been generating lately, trying to squeeze customers here would be a PR disaster. In addition to the E. coli outbreak connected to the company, Chipotle has been linked to norovirus in Massachusetts and California and salmonella in Minnesota, all since the beginning of September. Chipotle stock has plummeted on Wall Street, falling from a near all-time high of 750.42 on October 13 to its 554.86 close on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Chipotle announced plans to become the "industry leader in food safety." The company is implementing, among other things, "high-resolution testing of all fresh produce" and enhanced internal training "to ensure that all employees thoroughly understand the company's high standards for food safety and food handling." Following the norovirus outbreak in Boston, Ells appeared on the Today show to apologize to those who had become sick after eating at the company's restaurants.

"The procedures we're putting in place today are so above industry norms that we are going to be the safest place to eat,'' Ells told Matt Lauer.

In its latest update, the Centers for Disease Control said E. coli connected to Chipotle has sickened 52 people in nine states. Fortunately, no one has died. The exact cause of the outbreak still hasn't been determined.

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