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Fast-food restaurant chain Chipotle has announced it is changing its cooking methods in an effort to address food safety concerns, sparked by an E. coli outbreak at several of its restaurants.

Chipotle has been battling the outbreak since late October. More than 50 cases of E. coli have been reported in eight states.

As a result Chipotle’s share price has dropped 18% since October.

The company outlined the changes on its website and said it was taking “aggressive actions”.

Photo Chipotle Mexican Grill

Photo Chipotle Mexican Grill

“In the wake of recent food safety-related incidents at a number of Chipotle restaurants, we have taken aggressive actions to implement pioneering food safety practices,” a statement on the website said.

Chipotle restaurants will now dip fresh ingredients, like onions, in boiling water to kill off any germs. The company is also preparing ingredients, such as tomatoes, in a centralized kitchen where they can be washed, chopped and tested before being sent to restaurants.

Chicken will be marinated in plastic bags rather than bowls and coriander will be added to hot rice to allow the heat to remove any microbes.

In February, Chipotle warned investors it had a greater risk of exposure to food-borne illness than its rivals.

In its annual report the company said its use of fresh ingredients rather than frozen and traditional stovetop cooking, rather than automated, put it at greater risk than competitors like McDonalds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been unable to identify the specific cause of the E. coli spread.

Chipotle partnered with food safety consulting firm IEH Laboratories, to come up with the new preparation methods.

IEH also will conduct external assessments of individual branches. These will take place alongside weekly and quarterly food safety audits.


Chipotle Mexican Grill began testing a new menu item – Chorizo Buritos – on June 2.

Made with a blend of chicken and pork and seasoned with paprika, cumin and chipotle peppers, Chipotle’s chorizo is currently selling in its Kansas City restaurants. The meat is packed into patties, which then get seared on the grill and crumbled before serving.Chipotle Chorizo Burrito Kansas

This is not the first time the Mexican chain has toyed with the idea of adding chorizo. The chain tested a chicken chorizo in New York in 2011.

Chipotle founder, chairman and co-CEO Steve Ells said in a statement: “Since we opened the first Chipotle restaurant 22 years ago, our menu has changed very little, and our focus has been on constantly improving the quality of every ingredient we use.

“While we have never been opposed to adding to our menu, we will only do so when we think there’s an opportunity to add something that is really unique within our overall menu, and where we can find ingredients that meet our high standards.”

Chipotle has no immediate plans to expand the test to additional cities but will consider boosting chorizo’s availability based on how Kansas City customers respond to the test.