OUR FOOD SAFETY ADVANCEMENTS

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Since we opened the first Chipotle restaurant more than 22 years ago, we have served fresh, wholesome ingredients prepared using classic cooking techniques. It’s always been a top priority to make sure that our delicious food is safe to eat.

Ensuring that all of our fresh ingredients are as safe as possible is a serious effort. Not only do we need to work closely with our suppliers to ensure that the ingredients we buy are safe, but we also need to make sure that once those ingredients reach our restaurants, they are handled and prepared in the safest way possible. Explore this page to learn about how we do that.

1. SUPPLIER INTERVENTIONS

Steps to avoid food safety risks before ingredients reach Chipotle.

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2. ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY
 
 

Advanced tools that eliminate pathogens while maintaining food quality.

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3. FARMER SUPPORT & TRAINING

Food safety funding and training for local farmers.

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4. ENHANCED RESTAURANT PROCEDURES

Protocols for handling ingredients and sanitizing surfaces in our restaurants.

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5. FOOD SAFETY CERTIFICATION

Mandatory certification for managers and field leaders.

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6. RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS

Extensive program of internal and 3rd-party food safety inspections.

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7. INGREDIENT TRACEABILITY

Advanced electronic tracking system to monitor ingredients through the supply chain.

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8. ADVISORY COUNCIL

Group of industry experts advising on and reviewing our procedures.

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SUPPLIER INTERVENTIONS

WHAT IT IS

An intervention is an action taken at some point in an ingredient’s lifecycle that reduces or eliminates food safety risks. Interventions can be applied to all different types of ingredients. In addition to the already rigorous food safety standards in place at each of our suppliers, we have partnered with them to implement additional, proven steps.

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT

As preventative controls, these interventions reduce or eliminate food safety risks before ingredients ever reach Chipotle restaurants. These interventions add another layer of safety on top of the rigorous food safety standards in our restaurants.

HOW IT WORKS

We require our suppliers to implement preventative systems, including validated HACCP plans and advanced technologies to further control food safety risks. These supplier controls are scientifically evaluated, advanced technologies: such as high pressure processing which does not rely on chemicals and leaves no residues. We require our suppliers to document the effectiveness of their food safety interventions used in harvesting and preparation. After harvesting and preparation practices are proven safe, we require that our suppliers routinely verify the effectiveness of their food safety interventions by using microbiological testing methods recognized by FDA and USDA. Microbiological testing is used to build effective food safety processes for every ingredient in our recipes. Our requirements place much of the focus on the up-front design of safe food processes and we use testing to validate control of harmful bacteria in all meat, chicken, dairy, and produce ingredients.


ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY

WHAT IT IS

These are processes and techniques that eliminate pathogens in a way that does not affect the taste or nutrition of the raw ingredients. While good practices on farms and in restaurants are effective in minimizing food safety risks, advanced food safety technologies that eliminate harmful bacteria in raw ingredients are becoming increasingly available.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

At Chipotle, it is our priority to source the freshest ingredients we can find, and then prepare them using classic cooking techniques. Employing techniques and technologies that minimize any food safety risks while not impacting the flavor of our food is very important to us.

HOW IT WORKS

High pressure processing: This practice relies on applying very high pressure under refrigeration, which inactivates harmful bacteria that may be present. One of the advantages of High Pressure Processing is that does not cause any deterioration of the nutritional and sensory aspects of food.
 
Sous vide: Sous Vide (meaning “under vacuum” in French) is a process by which foods are placed in a vacuum-sealed package and heated at low temperatures for extended periods of time. It’s a method of cooking employed by many of the world’s great chefs because it can result in more tender ingredients. It is also a recognized and validated intervention for controlling harmful bacteria. Our Sous Vide process is performed under continuous USDA inspection and monitored using sophisticated data collection including continuous temperature monitoring. We currently use this technique for our steak. Once the steak has been heated at low temperature for a precise amount of time, it is then marinated in and grilled in our restaurants. The result is steak that is smoky, tender and flavorful.
 
Blanching: Blanching is a process through which an ingredient is very briefly submerged in hot water in order to destroy harmful bacteria. Many people are unaware that fresh fruits and vegetables can harbor harmful bacteria on their skins, but it’s not uncommon. While washing fruits and produce does reduce the number of pathogens, our rigorous study and testing has proven that boiling water is dramatically more effective. While boiling water may not seem particularly “advanced” we have performed detailed scientific studies that quantify the specific benefits—and the best techniques—for this procedure. We blanch our bell peppers, lemons, limes, oranges, jalapeños, onions, and avocados making them dramatically safer but leaving them just as delicious as ever. 


FARMER SUPPORT & TRAINING

WHAT IT IS

Through our Local Grower Support Initiative, we are providing training and funding to our local farmers so they can implement higher quality and food safety standards.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

It’s very important to us to source ingredients that are raised responsibly with respect for animals, the environment, and the farmers who produce the food. But not all farmers are able to invest in the processes and techniques that ensure their food will meet our elevated food safety requirements. This program allows us to continue to support smaller local farms by providing the funding and training they need. 

HOW IT WORKS

Chipotle has partnered with Azzule’s Local Farmer Program to provide on-site food safety training and audits of local growers throughout the country. Azzule has the infrastructure and expertise to design and conduct food safety audits that ensure our local growers have proper HACCP in place and meet our safety and quality requirements. This includes implementing procedural changes in the field and during packing, as well as updating equipment and other aspects of the physical plant at each farm. Once Azzule has performed an audit, those results are then reviewed by our internal team, led by James Marsden, PhD, and Arturo Tanus, PhD, who ensure that the local grower meets all of our requirements and independently evaluate the growers HACCP plans and safety documentation.


ENHANCED RESTAURANT PROCEDURES

 

 

WHAT IT IS

The maintenance of a clean environment in our restaurants and safe food handling practices assure the safety of the foods we serve. We have implemented new state of the art sanitation procedures and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) systems designed to assure restaurant sanitization and food preparation practices.

 

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

These enhanced procedures in our restaurants help to ensure any pathogens that may have survived through the supply chain are eliminated in the restaurants. They also ensure that the restaurants themselves don’t become a source of contamination.

HOW IT WORKS

The HACCP systems implemented in our restaurants identify the critical processes that must be controlled and monitored in order to assure food safety. Daily HACCP logs are monitored continuously by the food safety leader in each restaurant to provide the greatest possible assurance and data collection. The food safety leader is the senior manager on duty during each shift and is responsible for checking that all food safety procedures are carefully followed.
 
In addition, more robust food safety procedures, including those regarding cleaning and sanitization have been adopted to ensure we have the best practices in place to prepare and serve our food. We have adopted the use of a natural disinfectant that virtually eliminates harmful bacteria and viruses from the restaurant environment. We have also implemented new food handling procedures and apply validated antimicrobial interventions for our food to mitigate food safety risks. These sanitizing procedures are routinely verified using advanced testing methods by a third party.


FOOD SAFETY CERTIFICATION

 

WHAT IT IS

Food safety certification is an educational process during which participants learn detailed information about food safety, temperature control, cleaning and sanitizing, cross-contamination control, safety regulations and more. 

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

Nothing is more important that the safety and well-being of our customers and our employees. Empowering our employees with the knowledge they need to be confident in their abilities is critical to ensuring our food is as safe as it can be. We are dedicated to providing the knowledge and training our employees need in order to ensure that food safety is always a top priority.

HOW IT WORKS

We require our in-restaurant teams and field leadership to be trained and certified in food safety by specialized, third-party institutions. This includes kitchen managers, service managers, apprentices, general managers, and restaurateurs (often six to eight managers per restaurant) receiving ServSafe training.
 
In addition, our field leaders are being trained and certified in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. The HACCP certification required of these field leaders meets the requirements established by the International HACCP Alliance. This level of HACCP and food safety training is unprecedented in the restaurant industry.


RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS

WHAT IT IS

Restaurant inspections are rigorous point-by-point inspection of hundreds of items within the restaurant. These include temperature controls, food handling and labeling, equipment inspections, procedure validations, illness policy awareness, and crisis management knowledge.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

Food Safety inspections and audits provide regular, real-time feedback on the performance of each restaurant, allowing us to identify best practices and restaurants in need of improvement. The inspections and audits are intended to help us identify opportunities to continuously improve food safety controls in every Chipotle restaurant.

HOW IT WORKS

Over the course of the last year, we have dramatically increased the number of inspections each restaurant undergoes—both by our internal teams and by independent auditors. These inspections are in addition to those carried out by state and local health departments. Our Field Leaders, each of whom is trained for these assessments, evaluate every restaurant weekly to bi-weekly to assure that food safety requirements are being met. In addition, we have partnered with an independent food safety audit division of Ecolab to provide rigorous quarterly food safety audits of every Chipotle restaurant in the United States. Finally, Food Safety Audits are also conducted by the Safety and Security Risk Group at Chipotle. Our inspections and audits are then augmented by a centralized review of every health inspection conducted by local government officials, which is shared with our operations teams and acted upon swiftly.


INGREDIENT TRACEABILITY

 

WHAT IT IS

Chipotle’s ingredient tracking system, otherwise known as our “traceability program,” is a computerized system that tracks items across the supply chain. Starting at the farm, continuing through our distribution centers, and ending in our restaurants, our Traceability program allows items within our supply chain to be tracked using laser-scanned barcodes. These barcodes are not unlike the UPC labels on products at the grocery store—placed on every box coming from our suppliers, so we know where each one came from. This program allows us to pinpoint individual lots or shipments of an ingredient anywhere along its journey. Chipotle is among the first major fast food companies in the United States with the capability to track ingredients from the farm to the restaurant.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

The ability to track our ingredients anywhere along their journey from the farm to our restaurants is central to our food safety program. That’s because we need the ability to respond quickly to a report from a farmer or other supply partner that an ingredient may need to be recalled and removed from our supply. 

HOW IT WORKS

Each ingredient and supplier is identified by a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and each case of ingredients is labeled using barcode labels containing the product name, batch number or lot number and pack date and/or use-by date. Products are then prepared to be shipped using another barcode which identifies that shipment and each of the individual boxes contained within. Then, the packages are scanned at every step along the way, much in the same way package delivery companies track overnight packages along their journey. All of this information resides in a central system that links it all together, allowing Chipotle and our suppliers to monitor all of our ingredients on their journey from the farm to you.


ADVISORY COUNCIL

 

WHAT IT IS

A group of food safety experts dedicated to evaluating and improving the food safety program at Chipotle. Our Food Safety Advisory Council is comprised of leading independent food safety experts and Chipotle’s new Executive Director of Food Safety.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

In order to ensure that Chipotle’s Food Safety program is as strong as possible, it is critical to supplement the expertise of our internal team with independent guidance and validation from experts outside the company. By combining Chipotle’s food safety team with a group of industry-leading experts, we are working to ensure that Chipotle’s Food Safety program will continually evolve and improve.

HOW IT WORKS

This group, headed by Dr. James Marsden, Chipotle’s Executive Director of Food Safety, will continually review Chipotle’s food safety procedures and strategies, validating existing initiatives and advising on opportunities for improvement. The council will meet regularly and report to Chipotle’s Board of Directors quarterly.

The Food Safety Advisory Council includes:

David Acheson, M.D., Founder and CEO, The Acheson Group View Bio.
Michael Doyle, Ph.D., Regents Professor of Food Microbiology, Center for Food Safety, University of Georgia View Bio.
James Marsden, Ph.D., Executive Director, Food Safety, Chipotle Mexican Grill 
David Theno, Ph.D., CEO, Gray Dog Partners View Bio.

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