Chipotle sounds like a John Prine song: Throw front-liners under the bus: Chipotle CEO blames staff for noro outbreak that sickened at least 135

Business Insider reports that last week, news broke that Chipotle had closed a restaurant in Sterling, Virginia, following multiple reports of customers getting sick after eating there. Chipotle’s stock plummeted and more than 130 people claimed they had become ill after eating at the restaurant.

Now, CEO and founder Steve Ells needs to convince customers and investors that the chain has a plan to prevent another food poisoning scandal.

“We have isolated the failure that occurred,” Ells said in a call with investors on Tuesday.

According to Ells, the Sterling, Virginia restaurant had failed to comply with Chipotle’s safety regulations, specifically allowing an employee to work while sick.

“We made it clear to the entire company that we have a zero-tolerance policy” for not following food-safety measures, Ells said. “When followed, they work perfectly.

That’s bullshit.

When biology and humans are involved, nothing is perfect.

Seriously, this dude who runs thousands of restaurants hasn’t looked at the fail-safe measures used by engineering firms for decades?

Another nosestretcher: Ells told reporters on a conference call Tuesday, “We are the only major restaurant to have HACCP.”

That would be news to McDonalds, Disney, and dozens of others.

In describing the norovirus outbreak this past week, Ells placed the blame squarely on the individual restaurant, saying “norovirus is unrelated to our food supply chain.”

How do you know?

Coke-head Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle, said: “We conducted a thorough investigation and it appears that someone in the restaurant leadership did not adhere to our food safety protocol. We believe someone worked while sick.

The lack of compliance at the Sterling restaurant doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. According to some Chipotle employees at other locations, store managers have encouraged workers to not to follow certain regulations, forcing them to work while sick and lie when filling out food safety sheets.

To prevent another food poisoning outbreak, Ells said that the chain needs to create a “culture of compliance.”

In light of the Sterling outbreak, Chipotle has made it clear that there will be “severe” consequences when in-store employees do not follow safety procedures. The company is launching additional training and communications efforts to ensure that each location follows national policies, such as sending sick workers home.

“Compliance with our procedures is nonnegotiable,” Ells said.

That’s all nice, and probably because Chipotle Mexican Grill received a follow-up subpoena on July 19, requesting information:

* Chipotle Mexican Grill says follow-up subpoena sought information related to illness incidents associated with a single Chipotle restaurant in Sterling, Virginia

* Chipotle Mexican Grill says it intends to continue to fully cooperate in the investigation

* Chipotle – sales trends in H2 of July 2017 have been adversely impacted by news regarding norovirus incident in co’s restaurant in Sterling, Virginia‍.

But it was just an accident.

Chipotle is getting sued again

Another shareholder who didn’t believe the press releases. According to NOLA.com, 

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is facing another class-action lawsuit by a disgruntled shareholder over its alleged inability to keep its restaurants clean, a new hurdle for a company still trying to regain consumer and investor confidence after a food scare two years ago. The latest complaint follows Tuesday’s revelation (July 18) that one of the burrito chain’s Virginia stores had temporarily closed because of a suspected norovirus outbreak, and Wednesday’s news media reports about Texas customers complaining of rodents dropping from the ceiling.

In March, Chipotle won dismissal of a similar lawsuit brought by investors over stock price drops after several food-borne illness outbreaks in 2015 were traced to its restaurants. A judge concluded that the case was “long on text but it is short on adequately-pleaded claims.” Those plaintiffs are now trying to revive the case in Manhattan federal court.

In the case filed Thursday, shareholder Elizabeth Kelley said the Colorado-based company made misleading statements to bolster confidence that it had resolved the health and safety troubles from 2015, when it was forced to close all of its U.S. stores after hundreds of consumers got sick. Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

 

I can’t make this shit up: Chipotle taps Wu-Tang Clan for marketing buzz

I can’t make this shit up: here’s a company with billions invested in it, and Chipotle decides to reach out to the Wu-Tang Clan.

A company that sucks bonding with a band that sucks and hoping that two negatives make a positive?

In April, 2017, Chipotle tapped hey-now Hank Kinsley and some other actors for some spots about how real Chipotle’s food was.

Guess that hasn’t gone so well.

Now, the aptly-named Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer and convicted cokehead, told Bloomberg that Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., has enlisted rapper RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan to unveil a new website that spotlights Chipotle’s ingredients. The company’s so-called clean menu — free of artificial preservatives and other additives — was a major selling point before a 2015 food-safety crisis sickened hundreds of customers and sent its shares plummeting.

Yup, real hardcore reaching out to the Wu-Tang Clan.

RZA, whose real name is Robert Diggs, helped design Chipotle’s new Savor.Wavs site. The rapper created 51 snippets of music, one for each ingredient on the menu, that lets people hear a audio interpretation of their typical Chipotle order. The new site doesn’t let customers order food, but it’s meant to drive home the simplicity of the chain’s menu.

“That might be lost on some, but people who are into the music will appreciate it,” said Crumpacker.

Crumpacker touted Chipotle’s simple menu at a party in Manhattan on Tuesday that featured a performance by RZA. He noted that fast-food hamburgers can have as many as 47 ingredients.

While the company declined to say how much it spent on the RZA campaign, Chipotle indicated it was less than the $5 million that a Super Bowl ad would have cost.

Chipotle’s stock, which hit a closing high of $757.77 in August 2015, has been battered by the food-safety concerns. The shares had been up for the year until Tuesday, when reports surfaced that customers had been sickened after eating a restaurant in Virginia. That location, which was closed on Monday, was slated to be reopened on Wednesday.

The stock is now trading around $368, about half its peak.

No risk messages are risky: Chipotle still doesn’t get it

I played hockey today, had an early evening nap – my partner is a saint – and then stayed up late so I could be on news radio in San Francisco at 6:20 a.m. their time — KCBS All News 740 and FM 106.9 — trashing Chipotle.

I said I wrote a book 20 years ago – Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk – that concluded no risk messages were really risky.

Yet here’s Chipotle, with their chief-science thingy, saying “Norovirus does not come from our food supply.”

As Chapman noted yesterday, there is on average one outbreak of food-related norovirus every day for all 365 days of the year in the U.S.

And rather than provide supporting statements for their claim, Chipotle took to Twitter to proclaim such insights as, “Why be full of potential when you could be full of burritos?” and “Summertime sadness is when you forget your guac.”

Al Gore had only just invented the Internet for everyone else when Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk was written.

Today, consumers demand data-based assurances, not platitudes.

I miss Phil Hartman (also born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada).

This scene from News Radio reminds me of when Chapman visited Kansas and shit for a couple of days because he had Campylobacter.

Virginia Chipotle closed after reports of illness

According to multiple outlets, a Sterling VA, Chipotle restaurant has closed due to what looks like a foodborne illness outbreak. Folks are speculating that it might be norovirus. And by folks, I mean Chipotle.

Huffpo reports,

After voluntarily closing a restaurant in Sterling, Virginia, after multiple customers reported falling ill, Chipotle said it plans to reopen the burrito spot on Tuesday.

Eight customers who ate at the location between July 14 and 15 filed reports on the food safety crowdsourcing website iwaspoisoned.com, indicating they suffered symptoms like diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

According to the reports, at least two customers have been hospitalized. 

“Norovirus does not come from our food supply, and it is safe to eat at Chipotle,” Jim Marsden, Chipotle’s executive director of food safety, said in an emailed statement. “We plan to reopen the restaurant today.”

“We take every report of illness seriously,” Marsden added. “In accordance with our established protocols, our team is working to ensure the safety of our customers and employees, including voluntarily closing the restaurant yesterday to conduct a complete sanitization.”

Uh, Jim, noro can come from the food supply. Yours and others’. It has even been linked to lettuce distribution. It certainly sounds like this is localized (like most noro is), but seems a bit early for certainty statements like this. Oh, and noro can definitely be foodborne. Sure, there’s likely a lot of person-to-person transmission out there but a couple of years ago my man Aron Hal of CDCl (and colleagues) looked at foodborne noro outbreaks in the U.S. They state that on average, 365 foodborne norovirus outbreaks were reported annually, resulting in an estimated 10,324 illnesses, 1,247 health care provider visits, 156 hospitalizations, and 1 death.

Safe is a promise.

From Business insider,

Here are some of the reports from iwaspoisoned.com related to the Sterling restaurant. All the reports were made from Sunday to Monday:

• Friday 7/14: Daughter and friends went to Chipotle Saturday 7/15: stomach pains and nausea started in morning Saturday 7/15: violently sick, puking, diarrhea, severe pain, overnight into Sunday. Friends ill as well with one friend also in ER. Sunday 7/16: Hospital visit for dehydration, nausea, pain Monday 7/17: severe pain, trauma pain This is the worst that I have ever seen. Severe food borne illnesses can cause long-term damage to the gastro-intestinal track. This was BAD!

• I ate a chicken bowl at 6ish and the rest at 11 pm Friday and then woke up Sunday morning with diarrhea and was nauseous

• Wife and I ate chicken bowls Friday night. Puking brains out Saturday night and Sunday.

• Ate salad bowl on Friday at 1230pm, became ill at 3pm on Saturday. Three up multiple times, had fever, dizziness, etc. Salad bowl with chicken, Pico, beans, medium salsa, corn

• My husband and I both had chicken around 7:00 on Friday, July 14th. Over 24 hours later, we both started vomiting. We are still experiencing symptoms as of Monday morning.
Chicken bowl – around 6 pm on 7.15.2017

• My husband and I shared a burrito bowl last night for dinner around 6:30 PM. It had rice, chicken, corn, pico, sour cream, cheese, medium salsa. At around midnight my husband woke up vomiting violently. Less than an hour later I began vomiting as well. We have since continued vomiting in addition to having diarrhea, stomach pains, dizziness upon standing, and low grade fevers. Chipotle was the only thing we both ate yesterday.

• My Son and I both had burrito bowls and became violently ill within hours of each other. He was visiting from college. Chipotle was the only food item we both ate that day. Violent stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting. Violently ill. Same exact symptoms Burrito bowl. Steak, rice, green peppers and onions, guacamole, cheese. Violently ill.

Full disclosure, I’ve been collaborating with the iwaspoisoned.com guy, Patrick Quade over the past couple of years through NoroCORE.

Shares plummeted more than 5 percent after the illnesses were reported.

Kierkegaard? I don’t even know her: The Danish doctor of dread, and BS from food safety companies

Without Kierkegaard, where would Woody Allen be?

The 200th anniversary of Soren Kierkegaard’s birth has brought some stereotypical outpourings about angst and existentialism.

Me, it’s better to play hockey.

I have a soft spot for the Danes. Spending five summers hammering nails with a couple of Danish homebuilders in Ontario (that’s in Canada) taught me the value of being well-read and beer at morning coffee, lunch, and afternoon coffee. My friend John Kierkegaard would say, the beer is nice, but the work, it isn’t really so good.

When I went to Copenhagen in 1998 for a scientific meeting, there was beer at morning coffee.

Gordon Marino wrote in The New York Times that the way we negotiate anxiety plays no small part in shaping our lives and character.  And yet, historically speaking, the lovers of wisdom, the philosophers, have all but repressed thinking about that amorphous feeling that haunts many of us hour by hour, and day by day. The 19th-century philosopher-theologian Soren Kierkegaard stands as a striking exception to this rule. It was because of this virtuoso of the inner life that other members of the Socrates guild, such as Heidegger and Sartre, could begin to philosophize about angst.

The adytum of Kierkegaard’s understanding of anxiety is located in his work “The Concept of Anxiety” — a book at once so profound and byzantine that it seems to aim at evoking the very feeling it dissects.

Perhaps more than any other philosopher, Kierkegaard reflected on the question of how to communicate the truths that we live by — that is the truths about ethics and religion.

“Deep within every human being there still lives the anxiety over the possibility of being alone in the world, forgotten by God, overlooked among the millions and millions in this enormous household. A person keeps this anxiety at a distance by looking at the many round about who are related to him as kin and friends, but the anxiety is still there.”

Kierkegaard understood that anxiety can ignite all kinds of transgressions and maladaptive behaviors — drinking, carousing, obsessions with work, you name it. We will do most anything to steady ourselves from the dizzying feeling that can take almost anything as its object. However, Kierkegaard also believed that, “Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate.”

In his “Works of Love,” Kierkegaard remarks that all talk about the spirit has to be metaphorical.  Sometimes anxiety is cast as a teacher, and at others, a form of surgery. The prescription in “The Concept of Anxiety” and other texts is that if we can, as the Buddhists say, “stay with the feeling” of anxiety, it will spirit away our finite concerns and educate us as to who we really are, “Then the assaults of anxiety, even though they be terrifying, will not be such that he flees from them.” According to Kierkegaard’s analysis, anxiety like nothing else brings home the lesson that I cannot look to others, to the crowd, when I want to measure my progress in becoming a full human being.

But this, of course, is not the counsel you are likely to hear these days at the mental health clinic.

I can attest to that.

So when Tyson launches a no antibiotics ever campaign, it is appealing to crass consumerism, making a buck, and throwing science back to when Kierkegaard was born.

We want our social media and technology, but we want our food produced in some 200-year-old barn.

Tyson President and CEO Tom Hayes said earlier this year that the company would continue to innovate in product development while remaining focused on sustainable production practices. “For us, sustainability isn’t a single issue; it’s about focusing on multiple dimensions in order to advance the whole,” Hayes said during the 2017 Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) Conference in Boca Raton, Florida. “We will use our reach, capabilities and resources to drive positive change at a scale we believe no other company can match.”

Amy and I went to a Phoenix Coyotes hockey game when Wayne was coach, maybe 2006, and this loudmouth behind us was bragging about some cougar he hooked up with in Boca.

That’s your benchmark, Tyson.

I have vague memories of another company, back in 2006, that turned its back on science and proclaimed no antibiotics.

They forgot about food safety, too busy being posers.

How’s that working out, Chipotle?

The language of this presser is full swallow-whole.

The company’s sustainability plans include establishing strategic partnerships to set science-based sustainability goals; continuing third-party audits of farms to certify humane treatment of chickens; improving how chickens are raised through a concept farm, with innovations designed to be better for the birds, the environment and food safety; and increasing transparency across the business, including sustainability efforts.

I’ve know people who can write this stuff.

Not me.

Not Kierkegaard

I’ve got no genius for evil, that makes me common.

The name “Kierkegaard” means “graveyard,” and “Søren” is an affectionate Danish moniker for the Devil.

Sorenne, you know you have some devil in you, and some science.

Can Jeffrey hey-now-Hank Tambor deliver the goods for Chipotle

Yup, food poisoning is always worth a chuckle. Nothing like a public health folk out there laughing at all the people barfing and undergoing organ transplants, if they’re not already dead.

But Chipotle, in its fourth makeover since hundreds got sick dating back to Nov. 2015, has decided that Jeffrey Tambor is best to persuade the gullible public that, once again, Chipotle’s food is made with integrity?

According to Austin Carr of Fast Company, it’s Chipotle’s biggest ad campaign yet. And depending on how you count, it’s also its third or fourth major brand rehabilitation experiment in the year and a half since its food-safety incidents first emerged. That speaks to the sizable challenges Chipotle is still facing as it seeks to recover its once-roaring restaurant sales—all while moving the conversation around its brand away from food safety.

But the conversation should all be about food safety.

Chipotle can’t make food safety the central point of its marketing, but it also knows that any initiative to tout its improvements or resell its brand will be viewed through the lens of its food-safety woes. “It’s a big marketing challenge,” Chipotle’s chief development officer, Mark Crumpacker, told me late last summer. “When you’re excited to go out to lunch, you’re not like, ‘Let’s go to the safest place!’”

I am.

Go do some more coke, aptly named Crumpacker.

The new web and TV spots, rolled out Monday, feature comedians Jillian Bell, John Mulaney, and Sam Richardson, who are shown in separate ads entering a house-size burrito where Tambor’s voice instructs them to “be real” because, well, “everything is real” inside a Chipotle burrito. The comedians proceed to make comical confessions, and the ads each end with a new Chipotle motto, “As Real As It Gets,” an apparent reference to the company’s recent strides in removing artificial flavors and preservatives from its ingredients.

Chipotle, instead, has initiated a significant number of changes to its food-safety program, but it has been more strategic about informing customers about them. “Our food safety is not something that I expect to drive lots of people into the restaurant, but I do think it might erase some people’s doubts and allow future marketing to be met with less objection,” Crumpacker said at the time.

Is Chipotle at the point yet where new efforts will be greeted with less cynicism? It’ll likely take another quarter before we’ll see if the campaign has an impact on sales. For now, Chipotle will have to depend on Jeffrey Tambor and company to convince shareholders that there’s always money in the burrito stand.

But, hey now: you judge.


 

Chipotle: Food safety idiots

Rather than focus on the things that make people barf – which Chipotle should know all about – they are now claiming it is the only national restaurant brand without added colors, flavors or preservatives on its entire menu.

l“We have always used high quality ingredients and prepared them using classic cooking techniques,” Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder and CEO, said in a statement.

“We never resorted to using added colors or flavors like many other fast food companies do simply because these industrial additives often interfere with the taste of the food. However, commercially available tortillas, whether they are for us or someone else, use dough conditioners and preservatives.”

Chipotle now says it uses only local and organically grown produce as well as meats from animals raised without hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics. None of the 51 ingredients in the restaurant’s foods have been genetically modified but the company still sells soft drinks that contain GMO-containing ingredients.

The company has even released a visual ingredient statement – allowing customers to see exactly what’s being used to create their Chipotle dishes. 

Good luck with that.

Like many other food safety types, I will continue to avoid. Chipotle’s emphasis on marketing bullshit – 21st century snake-oil — rather than safety shows how much they have jumped the shark.

If Chipotle thinks corn, or any of their other ingredients, isn’t genetically modified, then they’re drinking their own jello.

 

Food Safety Talk 115: Features Chico Marx

It’s the super happy holiday version of Food Safety Talk. Don and Ben chat about Christmas movies, gambling as children and other holiday traditions. Making appearances in the guys’ discussion are Twitter and posting great questions of regulators about poor recall notices; cooling and holding cous cous and regulatory interpretations of time as a public health control; norovirus outbreaks at schools; and, Chipotle’s food safety culture.marx-brothers-harpo-marx-chico-marx-groucho-marx1

Episode 115 can be found here and on iTunes.

Links so you can follow along at home: