Following Chipotle's numerous foodborne illness outbreaks, the burrito giant is making significant changes to the way it prepares food. The chain that has long tooted its own horn about "freshness" and "integrity" will now be doing less prep in-house to minimize risks for its customers.
According to the Associated Press, Chipotle stores will now be bringing in pre-shredded cheese rather than grating it on-site. "Tomatoes, cilantro and other ingredients" will be pre-chopped so they can be tested for bacteria. Onions, jalapenos, lemons, and limes will still be cut fresh, though they'll be "blanched to kill germs." As the Associated Press points out, "Chipotle has said in the past that tomatoes taste better when freshly diced in restaurants." But even better than freshly chopped tomatoes are healthy customers that aren't filing lawsuits.
Of course, it's worth noting that even before the E. coli disaster, Chipotle wasn't as fresh as some customers might have believed: The restaurant's carnitas, barbacoa, and beans have all been delivered to stores pre-cooked for years.
In addition to utilizing more pre-prepared ingredients, it seems Chipotle will also be moving away from local sourcing. The company has long been vocal about buying produce from local farmers whenever possible, but smaller producers may not be able to keep up with the new, more stringent guidelines Chipotle has for its suppliers.
CEO Steve Ells made an appearance on the Today Show earlier this month to take responsibility and apologize to customers, but the company's nightmare is far from over: On Monday the CDC announced it had discovered another E. coli outbreak, linked to a different strain, that had sickened five people who ate at Chipotle in three additional states (Kansas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota).
Meanwhile, the company's stock is feeling the hurt, currently hovering below $500 for the first time in 19 months. But Chipotle's public health scandal might not be hurting store traffic as much as you'd think: A recent poll by Reuters revealed that of Americans who were aware of the company's recent foodborne illness woes, just under 25 percent said they are eating there less often.