Locals respond to Chipotle’s recent food-safety crisis and more local restaurant news

See how locals are responding to the #Chipotle food-safety crisis. Image: Staff photo See how locals are responding to the #Chipotle food-safety crisis. Image: Staff photo

Locals respond to Chipotle’s recent food-safety crisis

Everyone’s favorite Mexican (we use that term lightly) grill chain has been under public scrutiny for months. Recent outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella and the norovirus have sickened hundreds of people across the country and caused the temporary closure of more than 40 Chipotle restaurants. CNNMoney reports that the chain’s stock has plummeted to about $428 a share, a 42 percent drop from its height of about $750.

From the looks of the lunch line at the Pantops location last Wednesday, Chipotle diehards in Charlottesville don’t seem deterred by the recent food-safety issues—none of which have occurred in Virginia. But the powers that be at Chipotle’s corporate headquarters have heard the concerns loud and clear, and on Monday, February 8, all 1,900 locations will close for a company-wide meeting to address the issues and discuss the steps they’ve taken to regain trust as a safe and health-conscious chain.

A letter from founder Steve Ells on Chipotle’s website states that the company is taking “significant steps” to ensure the safety of its food.

“From the beginning, all of our food safety programs have met or exceeded industry standards,” the letter reads. “But recent incidents…have shown us that we need to do much, much better.”

The letter details new “high-resolution sampling and testing” of ingredients to prevent contaminants like E. coli from getting into the food, plus “additional microbiological kill steps to eliminate microbial risk,” new sanitation procedures and additional food-safety training for restaurant employees.

Sound Bites

We asked a few Chipotle customers during lunchtime last week about food-safety concerns and the company’s response to them.

“I think things like this tend to get overblown,” says Logan Powell. “The food is still good, but if I got sick from something I ate here I’d probably have a different reaction.”

“I think it’s great [that they’re holding the meeting]. If there was poor food handling, then they need to educate their employees,” says Elizabeth Craddock. “When something like this happens, I think the best companies can do is admit they’re wrong and show that they’re putting forth efforts to fix what’s wrong.”

“I mean it’s gross, but I think they’re handling it,” says Liana Coppola.“My parents have said that I shouldn’t eat here, but my mom still wanted me to bring back food for her. People are obviously still coming.”

Morning market

The bad news is we’re still months away from the reopening of the City Market. The good news is there’s a new winter market in town to tide you over.

Every Saturday morning during the winter, Firefly will host an indoor farmers market. Vendors include Bells Valley Farm, Bellair Farm CSA, Madison Rainbow Trout, Orange Dot Baking Company and North Cove Mushrooms. And when you’re done perusing the market’s offerings, you can sit down and enjoy a “funky brunch,” which, according to Firefly owner Melissa Meece, is exactly what it sounds like—brunch with funk music playing in the background.

The market begins at 9:30am and runs for about two hours. For more information, visit Firefly’s Facebook page. Any local producers interested in participating in the market can contact Meece at firefly cville@gmail.com.