A FOCUS ON FOOD SAFETY

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.

OUR FOOD SAFETY PROCEDURES

1

AT OUR SUPPLIERS:

Like all restaurant companies, we buy the ingredients we use from a variety of different farmers, ranchers, and other producers. Many of those suppliers are in the United States, but some ingredients, like avocados, sometimes come from other countries. To ensure that the ingredients we buy are safe—meaning they are not contaminated with germs that could make people sick—we have established strict guidelines and procedures that our suppliers must follow.

Some of the ingredients we buy are delivered directly to our restaurants and others are sent first to central kitchens where they are washed and tested again before being sent to our restaurants. Below you will find descriptions of some of the procedures we use to ensure that our ingredients are safe both at the farms where they are raised as well as at the central kitchens where they are prepped.

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HIGH-RESOLUTION TESTING

The farms and central kitchens that raise and prepare our ingredients test those ingredients using high-resolution methods. High resolution testing is the practice of taking a large number of samples from a relatively small amount of the ingredient. This type of testing substantially reduces the risk that unsafe cilantro will go undetected.

For example, the cilantro we use gets tested twice — once in the field before harvest and again after it’s cleaned and ready to be packed. In the field, trained food safety professionals collect samples from each cilantro field following a “Z” pattern to ensure that the sample is both representative and statistically random. A field can only be harvested after the samples taken from it pass our tests.

After harvest, the cilantro is cleaned and tested again before being packed. Just as in the case of field testing, the packed cilantro is only shipped to Chipotle restaurants once they have passed the test.

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INGREDIENTS FROM CENTRAL KITCHENS

To ensure that all of the food we serve is as safe as possible, we prepare some items in central kitchens. Preparing ingredients in central kitchens helps ensure they’re free of germs, and reduces the chance that they could pick up any other germs while being prepped in the restaurants.

Tomatoes are a great example. Until recently, we diced tomatoes at our restaurants. Because we use up to five cases of tomatoes a day at each Chipotle, it wouldn’t be practical to individually test each tomato after washing and before dicing.

HERE'S HOW WE ENSURE TOMATOES ARE SAFE AT THE CENTRAL KITCHEN:
tomato and water
1. TOMATOES ARE WASHED
cut tomato
2. THEN DICED
cut tomato and water
3. AND THEN RINSED UNDER STRICT SUPERVISION
bin of diced tomatoes
4. NEXT, HUNDREDS OF INDIVIDUAL PIECES OF TOMATO ARE TESTED
a rejected bin
5. IF ANY FAIL—THE ENTIRE BATCH IS REJECTED
an accepted bin
6. IF ALL PASS, THE TOMATOES ARE USED AT THE RESTAURANT

We apply this same meticulous process to many of our ingredients, such as beef, romaine lettuce, and bell peppers.

2

IN OUR RESTAURANTS:

From the kitchen to the dining room, a Chipotle restaurant is a busy place. Given all of the activity that takes place in each restaurant—from our teams who prepare and serve food to our customers who spend time enjoying the restaurant experience—ensuring that the food and environment are as safe as possible is essential.

That’s why we have developed a set of procedures that make safety the highest priority in our restaurants. These procedures dictate how ingredients are handled, stored, and prepared; how restaurants are cleaned; and how our employees are trained. Below are descriptions of the key procedures:

  • chicken
    MARINATE CHICKEN ONLY AT NIGHT

    Chicken is marinated only at the end of the night—after other fresh ingredients have been prepped and put away. This procedure is important because raw meats can have germs on them that might come in contact with other ingredients.

  • Blanching veges
    PRODUCE BLANCHING

    We blanch our lemons, limes, jalapeños, onions, and avocados, submerging them in boiling water for five seconds, making them safer by dramatically reducing—or even eliminating—germs on their skins. This does not affect flavor.

  • Cleaning checklist
    HEIGHTENED RESTAURANT SANITATION

    We also require a comprehensive range of cleaning and sanitizing protocols, such as:

    • High frequency of cleaning and sanitizing high-contact areas during service
    • Restaurant-wide cleaning and sanitizing procedures at the end of each day
  • Restaurant audits
    AUDITS & INSPECTIONS

    We follow a rigorous restaurant inspection program:

    • Weekly inspections by Chipotle field leaders trained in food safety
    • Multiple annual inspections by Chipotle corporate food safety team
    • Frequent inspections by independent restaurant health experts
    • Regular inspections by local government health officials
  • Increased sick leave and rewards
    EMPLOYEE WELLNESS AND INCENTIVE STRUCTURE

    Our teams are trained and evaluated to ensure that food safety is their top priority.

    • Our paid sick leave program—one of the few such policies to exist at a national restaurant chain—enables workers to stay home when they are not well. In addition to offering regular sick days, we also have programs to extend sick leave when circumstances warrant.
    • Our incentive structure rewards restaurants that score well on food safety
    • The senior manager on duty during each shift is designated “food safety owner” responsible for checking that all procedures are carefully followed

OUR COMMITMENT TO FOOD WITH INTEGRITY:

Our commitment to Food With Integrity is stronger than ever. We believe that the safest and most delicious food comes when the best ingredients are prepared simply, using classic cooking techniques. When developing our food safety procedures, we took great care to ensure that the taste of our food remains as delicious as ever.

THAT'S WHY YOU SEE PLENTY OF COOKING AT YOUR LOCAL CHIPOTLE, SUCH AS:
cooked steak
MARINATING AND GRILLING CHICKEN AND STEAK
cooked steak
DICING ONIONS AND JALAPEÑOS
cooked steak
CHOPPING CILANTRO
cooked steak
COOKING RICE
cooked steak
PREPARING FRESH GUACAMOLE

None of these procedures interfere with the great taste of the food at Chipotle. In fact, some even make the food more delicious. For example, our process for preparing items like fresh tomato salsa and guacamole involves mixing the diced aromatics (like onions and jalapeños) in citrus juice before adding the other ingredients—a process also known as “maceration”. While this serves as an additional food safety step, it also results in ingredients that taste even brighter and fresher.

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OUR $10 MILLION LOCAL GROWERS SUPPORT INITIATIVE

We’re also committed to sourcing fresh produce from local farms, because they’re a big part of what we do.

In 2015, Chipotle restaurants in the U.S. served more than 30 million pounds of produce sourced from local farmers—or about 12% of the fresh produce brought into our restaurants. But for some of the smaller farmers in our local produce program, implementing Chipotle’s food safety standards may be a challenge. Some of these growers don’t have the financial resources, personnel, or technology necessary to meet Chipotle’s new safety standards.

That’s why we created the Chipotle Local Grower Support Initiative. We’re committing up to $10 million to help our suppliers meet our new safety standards. Not only is this good for our suppliers, it will help to ensure that our customers have access to an even larger supply of fresh and safe local produce. These funds will enable us to support some of the best local growers around the country—from small- and medium-sized local growers to farmers who use techniques like greenhouses.

This program will focus on three key objectives:

  • Education and training: Provide the food safety support and education necessary to meet our standards and help offset the costs of enhanced testing and food safety practices.
  • Financial assistance: Provide financial assistance in the form of grants or premiums to help cover the higher costs of enhanced food safety practices.
  • Develop new partnerships: Seek out farmers using greenhouses and other technologies around the country that meet Chipotle’s food safety standards.

DETAILS ON THE 2015 FOODBORNE ILLNESS INCIDENTS