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Chipotle plans massive employee retraining after foodborne illness source ID’d

A bacterium found in food left at improper temperatures is to blame for the recent outbreak that sickened nearly 700 in Ohio.
Photograph by Brian Schulman

Chipotle will begin retraining all employees in safe food-handling procedures next week after a health department determined the pathogen that sickened nearly 700 customers in Ohio arose from food left at unsafe temperatures, the fast-casual chain announced Thursday.

The Delaware General Health District determined through stool samples that clostridium perfringens was the cause of the outbreak that sickened at least 647 people who ate at a Chipotle in Powell, Ohio, recently.

“Chipotle has a zero-tolerance policy for any violations of our stringent food safety standards and we are committed to doing all we can to ensure it does not happen again,” Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said in a statement. “Once we identified this incident, we acted quickly to close the Powell restaurant and implemented our food safety response protocols that include total replacement of all food inventory and complete cleaning and sanitization of the restaurant.

“While this incident impacted only one restaurant, Chipotle Field Leadership will be retraining all restaurant employees nationwide beginning next week on food safety and wellness protocols. To ensure consistent food safety execution, we will be adding to our daily food safety routines a recurring employee knowledge assessment of our rigorous food safety standards.”

Clostridium perfringens grows in beef, poultry and dried or precooked foods prepared in large quantities and kept warm for a lengthy period before serving, according to the Delaware General Health District.

Symptoms of infection include diarrhea and abdominal cramps, which generally develop within six to 24 hours. To prevent growth of the pathogen, food should be cooked to a safe temperature before being kept at 140 degrees or warmer for two hours or less, the health department said.

Chipotle, which is still trying to regain its reputation after a series of food safety incidents in 2015 prompted large-scale store closures and consumer anxiety, voluntarily closed the Ohio unit after the first illnesses were reported.

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