The Chipotle mea culpa express train took the next logical stop today with a full-page ad in 61 newspapers across the country. "The fact that anyone has become ill eating at Chipotle is completely unacceptable to me and I am deeply sorry," wrote Steve Ells.
The expansive apology from the founder, co-CEO, and Chairman of Chipotle Mexican Grill, published in the likes of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, comes after a rash of E. coli, salmonella, and norovirus incidents at Chipotle restaurants across the country, and after a contrite appearance on the Today show last week. Ells's open letter promises to shore up the company's supply chain, and address health concerns with a comprehensive food safety program, and enhanced training and sanitation procedures. There's a burgeoning cottage industry exclusively centered around sweeping executive apologies: Ells's particular approach has been well-received by the market, so far. (Meanwhile, Chipotle faces a legal battle on another front.) Here's the open letter, in its entirety:
A Letter from Chipotle Founder Steve Ells
As a chef, nothing is more important to me than serving my guests food that is safe, delicious, and wholesome. From the beginning, all of our food safety programs have met or exceeded industry standards. But recent incidents, an E. coli outbreak that sickened 52 people and a norovirus outbreak that sickened approximately 140 people at a single Chipotle restaurant in Boston, have shown us that we need to do better, much better.
The fact that anyone has become ill eating at Chipotle is completely unacceptable to me and I am deeply sorry. As a result, we are committed to becoming known as the leader in food safety, just as we are known for using the very best ingredients in a fast food setting. I want to share with our customers specifics about some of the significant steps we are taking to be sure all of the food we serve is as safe as it can be.
To achieve our goal of establishing leadership in food safety, we collaborated with preeminent food safety experts to design a comprehensive food safety program that dramatically reduces risk on our farms, throughout our supply chain, and in our restaurants. The process began with a farm-to-fork risk assessment of every ingredient and all of our restaurant protocols and procedures.
Throughout our supply chain, we are implementing high-resolution sampling and testing of many of our ingredients to prevent contaminants, including E. coli, from getting into our restaurants. Testing of this kind is unprecedented in the restaurant industry because of the large number of samples tested. We are also working with our supplier partners to further enhance their food safety programs.
We have also designed many improvements within our restaurants to ensure our food is as safe as possible. This includes the introduction of additional microbiological kill steps to eliminate microbial risk. Additionally, we are rolling out new sanitation procedures in our restaurants and implementing additional food safety training for all of our restaurant employees. More information about these changes is available online at chipotle.com/foodsafety.
In the end, it may not be possible for anyone to completely eliminate all risk with regard to food (or from any environment where people congregate), but we are confident that we can achieve near zero risk. Chipotle is an incredibly focused company. Our menu has remained virtually unchanged for the last 22 years and we only have 64 ingredients in our food. Rest assured that we have looked at each of these ingredients, where they come from, and how they can be made even safer. I believe our restaurants are safer today than they have ever been.
The last 22 years have been an incredible journey and we are not going to shy away from this new challenge. I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize on behalf of all of us at Chipotle, and to thank our loyal customers who have stood by us through this difficult time.
Founder, Chairman, and Co-CEO