While the former thanks America’s farmers and ranchers for producing food for its stores and donates millions to support students in agriculture, the latter has continually spread false information about modern beef production, used fear and emotion to drive sales, and most recently has been slapped with plunging sales after an E. coli outbreak linked to its restaurants in October and November.
The E. coli outbreak was followed by a separate norovirus outbreak at a Chipotle store in Boston. Since then, sales have declined rapidly, sinking 30% (down 14.6% in the fourth quarter of 2015), according to Chipotle, making this the first decline in sales since the company went public in 2006.
The situation continues to escalate as Chipotle was served with a federal subpoena last month surrounding a criminal investigation tied to the norovirus outbreak. The investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations. Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold said in a company email that employees will not discuss pending litigation, but Chipotle plans to cooperate fully with the investigation.
Chipotle has more than 1,900 locations where the Denver-based burrito chain serves up all-natural burritos. The E. coli outbreak impacted at least 52 people in nine states, and the norovirus outbreak sickened more than 150 people.
Chipotle has issued full-page ads apologizing to their customers, but the once thriving company, which served burritos with a side of guilt, is now eating a slice of humble pie. Perhaps the chain will finally have to admit that, in its effort to chase the latest food fad, they forgot that the reason modern agriculture works is because of the food safety measures and protocols America’s food producers follow.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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