Chipotle Mexican Grill will pay a $25-million fine in a federal food-safety case after being linked to more than 1,100 cases of foodborne illnesses including E. coli, salmonella and norovirus between 2015 and 2018. According to a report in People.com, this is the largest fine in a food safety case. Chipotle was charged with adulterating food in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in Los Angeles federal court. Chipotle has agreed to a deferred prosecution agreement that will allow the company to avoid conviction if it complies with an improved food safety program in addition to paying up the fine.
Failure to Follow Safety Protocols
U.S. Department of Justice officials said Chipotle failed to ensure that its employees understood and complied with its food safety protocols, which resulted in hundreds of consumers experiencing food poisoning across the country. Officials say they hope this steep penalty along with upgrades to the fast food chain’s food safety program will result in greater protections for Chipotle consumers and remind others in the industry to review and improve their own food safety practices.
The news release from the Department of Justice details a number of incidents where Chipotle employees failed to follow food safety protocols, which resulted in at least five food poisoning outbreaks in the country over three years. The incidents often involved employees coming into work and serving food in spite of being sick.
Chipotle issued a statement saying they have instituted several enhancements to their food preparation and food handling practices to lower the risk of food poisoning. Their measures also include reducing the number of employees who come into contact with ingredients, safeguards to minimize the risk of undercooking food and microbiological testing of raw ingredients to help ensure safety before they are sent out to restaurants.
Responsibilities of Restaurants
Restaurants and locations that serve food have a heightened responsibility to ensure that safety protocols are followed especially as we go through the challenges of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. While California restaurants are currently closed for dine-in customers, that situation could change within the next month with certain safeguards in place. It is critical that restaurants follow safety protocols especially not allowing employees who are sick to handle food and ingredients that go into food.
If you or a loved one has suffered from food poisoning as a result of a food producer or restaurant’s negligence or failure to follow food safety protocols, you may be able to seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost income, hospitalization, pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced food poisoning lawyer can help you better understand your legal rights and options.