It’s no secret that it’s been a pretty horrendous fourth quarter of 2015 for Chipotle. In the past week, multiple media outlets have chided the burrito chain publicly for making at least 500 people sick in the past year. With new E. coli reports coming in as recently as two days agolawsuits gaining momentum, and apologies rolling in, it’s finally the time that Chipotle stops talking safety and starts implementing new guidelines.

But what does that mean for your beloved burrito bowl? The Washington Post reports that Chipotle may have to sacrifice the things that have made it so popular in order to improve its standards. The chain that has proudly held onto the slogan “food with integrity” is now finding itself between a rock and a hard place, as it appears that the local, sustainable, GMO-free products that it stakes its image upon may have been influential in the outbreaks.

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Already, the chain is switching gears to focus almost exclusively on safety—at least for the time being. Chipotle’s Chipotle’s chief financial officer, Jack Hartung, told Bloomberg,


We like the local program, we think it’s important, but with what’s just happened we have to make sure food safety is absolutely our highest priority, if it’s testing and safety vs. taking a step backward on local, we would do that and hope it would be temporary.”

Local farms may not have the technology or funds to test produce to the standards that Chipotle will now require. Still, the brand hopes to keep its reputation for fresh and local intact, without resorting to the ‘everything frozen’ fast-food model it has fought hard to separate itself from. “We’re doing both: great ingredients and the safest place,” said CEO Steve Ells.

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In the next few weeks, Chipotle will enact a series of new safety precautions, including the following:


  • Cheese will now arrive in restaurants pre-shredded.
  • Some produce, like tomatoes, will be prepared in an off-site commissary, tested for pathogens, and shipped to restaurants sealed (and pre-cut).
  • Ingredients like onions will be macerated with lemon or lime juice to kill germs.
  • Produce not prepared at the commissary will be blanched in-house to kill germs.
  • 60 samples of every 2,000 pounds of steak will be tested before it’s sent to stores.

Chipotle has taken a big stock dip and is still working on reopening all of its affected locations, but Ells and company are certainly banking on these safety precautions to restore some faith in the Chipotle brand and bring some good news back to the burrito business.

[via Washington Post, Bloomberg]