Remember, this is not the first time Chipolte has had a foodborne illness outbreak: “A Bit(e) of History of Chipotle Food Poisoning Outbreaks,” and it is not like outbreaks like these have not happened at other fast food restaurants in the past that Chipotle could have learned from: “Hey Chipotle, Great Press Release, But …” My guess is a full page ad in the New York Times is not cheap and it is not easy for a CEO to say sorry, but a friend in New York sent me a photo of the page this AM.
Seattle Times ran a story on Chipotle’s reopening (given that the recent outbreak happened in the Seattle/Portland area, I am not sure that Chipotle is planning on running ads in local papers here too) and Chipotle’s response to the recent E. coli O26 outbreak that has sickened 50 and put 14 in the hospital.
But is Chipotle’s response all that aggressive? Seattle attorney Bill Marler wonders.
“The things they instituted now are all so basic and all so standard, you have to ask yourself, why the heck didn’t they do all of this before,” Marler said Tuesday.
Marler, one of the nation’s top food-safety trial lawyers, already has filed two federal lawsuits against Chipotle based on the latest outbreak. Among his 26 clients are two children who were hospitalized at Seattle Children’s hospital and a 70-year-old woman just released from an intensive-care unit in Portland, he said.
The latest rash of food poisonings represents the fourth outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants this year, Marler said. That includes outbreaks in Minnesota, California and a previous one in Seattle that sickened five customers of a Chipotle restaurant on Capitol Hill.
Local health officials “didn’t notify the public about that one; they just kept it quiet,” Marler said. “And that’s what drives me crazy. Maybe if they’d gone public, we could’ve avoided this outbreak.”
On Tuesday, a sign posted on the front door of Chipotle in Seattle’s South Lake Union informed lunch-hour customers of the restaurant’s temporary closure “due to a supply issue.” Meanwhile inside, a uniformed crew wiped down countertops and equipment.
Before reopening the closed restaurants, local food inspectors will determine if each is in compliance with cleaning and safety procedures, health officials said. Protocol changes prompted by such outbreaks can be good for public safety in the long run, they added.
After the 1993 E. coli outbreak linked to Jack in the Box restaurants that killed four children, “The whole way the industry approached cooking burgers changed,” Duchin noted.
Still, it took another decade before the beef industry stopped fighting regulatory legislation that ultimately led to a steep decline of such outbreaks, said Marler, who built a national reputation on the Jack in the Box outbreak.
“Unfortunately, change is incremental in all human endeavors,” Marler said. “We only make dramatic changes when we’ve been hit in the head with a 2-by-4 once or twice. Hopefully for Chipotle, this is their 2-by-4 moment.”
I guess we shall see.