INDIANAPOLIS – Ensuring food safety is Chipotle’s new plan to get people back into their restaurants.
To do that, Chipotle restaurants in Central Indiana, and across the country, opened a little later than normal Monday so employees could have a nationwide team meeting and talk about new procedures to keep food safe at Chipotle.
The team meetings were organized after more than 60 customers in 14 different states got sick after eating Chipotle in October and December. In January, sales plunged 36 percent at stores open at least 13 months.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention closed its investigation, but the source of the illness is still not known. Chipotle executives said in a statement they may never be able to identify what made people sick.
Even though there were no E. Coli breakouts in Indiana, we checked in to see how safe the restaurants were in Marion County.
We went to Chipotle to try and find anything the might be out of place, but to an untrained eye it’s hard to tell.
“You’re dealing with people’s health,” says Jillian Hicks, a food inspector with the Marion County Health Department. “People can be admitted to the hospital or take off work due to being ill. So many things can happen just by making that one food safety mistake.”
Call 6 Investigates went digging through Marion County Health Department records for the past three years and found Indy’s eight Chipotle locations had been written up for critical violations 32 times.
None of the violations were bad enough to shut down the restaurants and were fixed by the time inspectors returned for their “recheck” a few days later.
According to the health department records, the most common issues at Chipotle were not keeping food at the right temperature and employees not changing gloves, both critical violations.
Beyond routine inspections, the health department also takes reports from people that claim they got sick after eating at a restaurant. After the report, they dispatch an inspector to check the restaurant.
There were 14 illness complaints over the past three years, according to health department records. Although each one was investigated, only one of the complaints was considered justified.
According to records, the person who got sick and told the health department they had a burrito bowl with chicken and steak, brown rice, black beans, and mild salsa on Tuesday, April 7, 2015 around 7:30 p.m. The report goes on to say that the person started vomiting the next morning and later had diarrhea. The person kept vomiting for about 36 hours.
In the report, the inspector says they found the sour cream and shredded cheese on the line were being stored too hot. The source cream measured at 51 degrees and the cheese at 50 degrees. The safe “cold holding” temperature, according to the health department is 41 degrees.
The report also says that the inspector saw several employees putting on gloves before washing their hands, something that is a big issue, the health department said.
“You can’t touch the outside of the gloves when your hands are dirty and then go prep a salad or something like that,” Hicks said.
We saw that when we took our cameras to Chipotle: When our Call 6 Photographer ordered his meal, the employee put on a new pair of gloves but didn’t wash her hands before.
Chipotle hopes the strides they make with their safety training Monday will help avoid any further illnesses.