Chipotle Changing Cooking Methods In Wake Of E. Coli, Norovirus Outbreaks

Weeks after Chipotle CEO Steve Ells proclaimed that the fast casual restaurant would be the “safest place to eat,” the company appears to be getting the ball rolling with a slew of new cooking methods aimed at preventing future E. coli and norovirus outbreaks that have recently sickened more than 200 customers in the U.S. 

The Associated Press reports that Chipotle will tweak several of its current cooking methods while it continue to search for the cause of recent E. coli and norovirus contaminations.

Under the new methods, which will be implemented in coming weeks, Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold says the company doesn’t expect the taste of its food to change.

Among the changes Chipotle plans to make are:

• onions will be dipped in boiling water to kill germs before they’re chopped.
• raw chicken will be marinated in re-sealable plastic bags, rather than the current method of marinating in bowls.
• cilantro will be added to freshly cooked rice so the heat can rid it of microbes.
• cheese will be shipped to restaurants pre-shredded.
• ingredients like onions will be splashed with lemon or lime juice to kill germs.
• 60 samples of every 2,000 pounds of steak will be tested before being sent to stores. A similar test for chicken will be performed.
• Tomatoes, cilantro and other ingredients – with the exception of onions – will be chopped in a centralized location rather than in stores. This allows the company to test the products.

The new cooking methods come after CEO Ells promised new safety standards during his string of public apologies.

“It’s a really tough time,” Ells said during an interview on the Today show in early December. “I have to say I’m sorry for the people that got sick. They’re having a tough time. I feel terrible about that, and we’re doing a lot to rectify this and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

He went on to say that the company was implementing procedures that were “so above industry norms that we are going to be the safest place to eat.”

Chipotle has been busy in recent months with its latest food-related illness issues, after more than 150 Boston College students fell ill with norovirus after eating at a campus location.

This, on the heels of the nine-state E. Coli outbreak linked to Chipotle that’s sickened more than 50 people in California, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Minnesota.

And earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was investigating five additional illnesses linked to a rare, specific strain of E. coli. The five people who became sick reported eating at Chipotle restaurants in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Chipotle tweaks cooking after E. coli scare [The Associated Press]