Chipotle’s microbial quandary highlights industrywide food safety concerns

Chipotle’s microbial quandary highlights industrywide food safety concerns

The following blog is based on current events and analysis featured in Consumers and Food Safety in the U.S.: Implications for Marketers, Retailers and Foodservice. Save 10% on the report with promo code PFSAVE10.

Jan. 13 - Last year, Chipotle Mexican Grill discovered a hard lesson: it’s all fun, games, and shrewd capitalism until customers fall victim to a foodborne illness. The scrutiny that has plagued the company following a series of E. coli outbreaks has tarnished the reputation of a chain long adored for its commitment to quality food sourcing. While the full implications have yet to unfold, customers and stockholders alike are clearly shaken. Company shares have taken a tumble and the chain was recently slapped with a suit seeking damages on behalf of investors. It didn’t help that some top company executives developed an antagonistic relationship with the media and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) during the peak of the crisis.

Will E. coli prove to be the David destined to slay Chipotle’s Goliath? Unlikely, but at the very least the microbial menace appears to have knocked some of the wind out of the fast casual colossus.

Foodborne illness is a serious public health issue. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year, one out of every six Americans (48 million people) gets sick by consuming contaminated foods or beverages.

Packaged Facts’ consumer survey data published in Consumers and Food Safety in the U.S.: Implications for Marketers, Retailers and Foodservice found that a slight majority (53%) of U.S. consumers say that their level of concern about food safety has stayed about the same in the past few years, but 46% of consumers say their level of concern has increased. Only 1% report it has decreased. For those Americans whose concern is on the uptick, the rationale is seemingly justified. In the past year alone, U.S. food and beverage companies recalled approximately 500 products for food safety and mislabeling issues.

Ultimately, consumers don’t just want to eat fresh, they want to eat safe.  And it’s not just Chipotle who must be more vigilant.  The large number of consumer illnesses and product recalls demonstrates that all companies in the food and beverage industry need to be careful of food safety and proper labeling. It’s clear that consumers and the media will continue to hold any company who fails to meet these standards appropriately accountable.

-- By Daniel Granderson