Chipotle's chip on the shoulder

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In recent months, Chipotle’s reputation has suffered due to the increasing amount of its customers becoming sick. Morgan Johnson ’17

In the wake of Chipotle’s incident with food-borne illnesses, Convent of the Sacred Heart’s kitchen staff is working to assure students and employees that school lunches are clean and safe to eat.
In recent months, customers at Chipotle suffered from Escherichia coli (E. coli), norovirus, and salmonella. These outbreaks first occurred in August 2015, according to foodsafetynews.com. Since then, hundreds of people have become sick as a result of eating tainted Chipotle food.
A  close-to-home incident of Chipotle-induced illness occurred in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Over 140 students at Boston College fell ill with norovirus, a disease that causes swelling of the large intestine lining and stomach after eating at a nearby Chipotle in December. As a result, the location temporarily closed for almost three weeks in order to establish the cleanliness of its facilities and the health of its employees.
Chipotle will close each of its restaurants from 11 am to 3 pm February 8 to hold staff meetings that will discuss food safety procedures at their specific locations.
Ironically, the company’s promise of “Food with Integrity” has been one of its major keys to success. Because of these outbreaks, Chipotle’s stock price has dropped nearly 20 percent over the past three months and the chain is losing revenue, according to money.cnn.com.
The company has hired food safety consultants to improve the standards currently used in Chipotle restaurants. They have already added a new procedure of testing the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) of its produce to ensure that it is of high quality and to identify any potential pathogens in the food, according to nrn.com.
Additionally, Chipotle has already changed several of its cooking methods, according to businessinsider.com. Workers must now marinate chicken in resealable plastic bags rather than use bowls, add cilantro immediately to freshly cooked rice to reduce the risk of living bacteria, and boil onions before chopping them.
“I used to go to chipotle because I’m vegan but their vegan friendly options weren’t really affected by this epidemic,” senior Tori Carley said. “However, its reputation is suffering. My friends aren’t vegan, but they are now opposed to going to Chipotle because they are concerned about food safety.”
Sacred Heart’s Food Service Director Mr. Jamey Patterson guarantees that the food served at Sacred Heart is clean and safe to eat. Flik, Sacred Heart’s food supplier, has strict guidelines for preparing food and ensuring that nobody falls ill from eating food its workers prepared.
“Our company has a lot of redundancies to try to protect things like that from happening,” Mr. Patterson said. “You can never 100 percent eliminate it, but what you’re trying to do is find as many different ways as possible to mitigate the risk.”
One system Sacred Heart’s kitchen staff employs to confirm food safety is a product called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Manager.

In recent months, Chipotle's reputation has suffered due to the increasing amount of its customers becoming sick. Morgan Johnson '17
In recent months, Chipotle’s reputation has suffered due to an increasing number of its customers becoming sick.
Morgan Johnson ’17

“We have a digital hand-held device called HACCP Manager we use to take temperature of the food and then the records get uploaded on the computer,” Mr. Patterson said. “If something were to happen, we can find out if it was caused by improper procedure on our end. The great thing about the Hasset Manager is that the program can’t be tampered with. The reading gets set in with a timestamp and a datestamp. When people are keeping written records, there’s the potential that someone could forge it.”
Additionally, workers must undergo intensive sanitation, allergy, and safety training before and during their time at Sacred Heart. The kitchen also uses a program called 24 Five Minute Trainings. This essentially means that each morning before reviewing the menu, the staff has a brief safety training and talk to emphasize the importance of washing hands and avoiding cross-contamination.
Unlike Chipotle, Sacred Heart follows a plan that would minimize the exposure to contamination if there were ever a food safety issue. One publicly noted component of the plan is when a student asks for seconds, she must get a new plate.
“Hypothetically, if someone were sick and they came up with that plate and our spoon were to touch that plate, then we put the spoon back into the food and everyone else we serve out of that container gets sick. We are trying to cut off the place where there’s the potential to pass something along,” Mr. Patterson said.
Sacred Heart’s kitchen staff also focuses on storing chemicals away from the food in order to eliminate the risk of contamination. The staff is also properly trained on how to handle and use these chemicals appropriately in the kitchen.
To guarantee kitchen cleanliness, Sacred Heart receives multiple inspections throughout the year from the health department, internal sources, district managers, and regional and corporal chefs.
“They have an excellent record here. They routinely get 98 or 100 on their health inspections,” Mr. Patterson said. “The third party audits they do give red, yellow, or green ratings and they consistently get green ratings.”
Mr. Patterson also noted that, since joining Sacred Heart’s kitchen staff in October 2014, he has not changed any sanitation procedures due to the fact that they were already efficient and effective in keeping students and staff safe.
“We’ve changed a few things in terms of food offerings and organization, but the quality of [Executive Chef] Hugo [Cabrera]’s food was the one thing I didn’t want to touch because there was nowhere to go but down. I didn’t want to mess it up,” Mr. Patterson said. 
Mr. Patterson reassures that the food he and the kitchen staff prepare is of the highest quality and that the risk of illness is extremely slim.
“As long as we’re doing and following the procedures Flik has in place, we’re fine,” Mr. Patterson said. “We just need to stay vigilant and keep following the company’s requirements.” 
-Morgan Johnson, Co-News Editor