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Union Plans Chipotle Protests, Saying Diners Are Still at Risk

They claim sketchy food safety practices at one of the chain's tomato suppliers

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Lunch-goers hungry for carnitas burritos will have to cross picket lines in California today: Union protesters plan to demonstrate outside two Chipotle stores today at noon local time, reports Food Safety News.

The protests outside locations in Sacramento and Manteca will "[inform] customers about food safety problems and other violations at Taylor Farms, which supplies tomatoes to franchises in the region," according to a Teamsters news release. The union claims that sketchy safety practices at the supplier are putting Chipotle customers at risk, claiming Taylor Farms "has recalled more than 150,000 food items in the last few months and has also been cited for more than 40 health and safety violations." The release specifically alleges instances of mold on food and "bird feces near food production lines."

The union also hopes to "raise awareness about unsafe working conditions at Taylor Farms," writes FSN, claiming it has provided unsafe working conditions and tried to squash union activity among workers. The protesters plan to utilize signs and leaflets with phrases like "Chipotle Turns Our Stomachs" and "Are You Eating Dirty Tomatoes?"; some will even wear tomato costumes.

Products from Taylor Farms have been involved in numerous foodborne illness-related recalls lately, including last November's Costco chicken salad incident that sickened people in seven states. While investigators were unable to pinpoint the source of Chipotle's E. coli outbreak that sickened dozens of people, the CDC believes produce was the culprit; other reports say Chipotle thinks Australian beef may have been the culprit. Eater has reached out to Chipotle for comment.

UPDATE 3/25 8:42 a.m.: A spokesperson for Taylor Farms provided the following statement:

Taylor Farms has an award winning, industry leading, food safety record. These allegations are baseless and simply a veiled attempt by the Teamsters to impose their will and force bargaining with the union. Taylor Farms is committed to supporting our employees and their right to freely choose whether or not to join a union through a secret-ballot election process. In fact, there was a vote in March 2014 and employees eligible to vote decided against representation by the Teamsters union. Our offer to the Teamsters has been simple and clear: Win an election of the employees they want to represent and Taylor Farms will negotiate a contract. As always, we will continue to provide all of our employees with competitive wages and benefits while seeking to ensure that worker safety and security remains a high priority at Taylor Farms.

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