Much has been written in the past couple weeks about the foodborne illnesses contracted by Chipotle customers. I've been a bit reluctant to weight in because, at least in some social media circles, there seemed to be some pleasure taken in Chipotle's misfortune. From my perspective, however, I don't want to delight in someone else's misfortune (particularly some unsuspecting food consumer's foodborne illness) even if I've previously been critical of the vendor's marketing practices. What I will say is that Chipotle engaged in a variety of marketing practices (e.g., going non-GMO, no hormone, etc.) the best science suggests have no material impact on food safety, and yet the moves were likely aimed (at least in some part) to increase the perception (rather than the reality) of food safety.
Marketing aside, there is a real trade-off to be made between selling "clean", fresh, food sourced from small-local vendors and food safety. There are likely some taste benefits with fresh, unfrozen food and there is nothing inherently wrong with being willing to pay a bit more for wares from smaller more local providers. But, choosing these options may make ensuring food safety a bit more challenging.
That's the message I tried to communicate to the reporter Kimberly Leonard for this piece in US News & World Report. She quoted me as saying:
I touched on this same topic for a chapter on technological improvements related to food safety I wrote for my forthcoming book, Unnaturally Delicious:
Here's another portion of the book related to a discussion I had with Frank Yiannas, the VP of food safety for Walmart (written well before news of the Chipotle outbreaks emerged):