How Not To End Up Like Chipotle
Food service professionals are of course aware of the Chipotle disaster, and we can debate forever whether the company's response to their food safety issues was correct or a PR debacle. Regardless, it is important to understand how Chipotle found themselves in such a dangerous situation and what we as caterers can do to avoid a repeat performance in our own kitchens.
Caterers Are More Vulnerable
When a customer reports a food-borne illness to a governmental agency, detective work is commenced. Trained agency representatives interview those affected and try and find a common link. If everyone who got sick ate at a certain establishment during a certain time-frame, it's not hard to pinpoint the source of the trouble.
If you catered a 500 person event and 100 people became ill, it wouldn't take much for the agency to do the math and find you responsible. We all know that if this happened it would definitely injure and possibly ruin your business.
What Were They Thinking?
I find it interesting that some proven methods that protect the population's general health have recently come into question. Anti-vaxxers feel that some childhood vaccinations actually cause autism. Although this has been scientifically proven to be false, there are a considerable number of unprotected children circulating within communities.
Likewise, there are some that are rejecting proven sterilization methods like pasteurization.While Chipotle may not have made it a policy to reject some food sterilization methods, their practice of allowing "local and organic" products into their supply chain--without due diligence--may have led to the recent crisis.
My point is this:
Think twice before you purchase food from a local farm. Asking the farmer if their food is safe is not enough. Furthermore, if you purchase food at a farmer's market, how do you really know if the person at the stand actually has knowledge of the farm's sanitation procedures? Maybe they are a disinterested third party and don't really know anything about the farm's methods and supply policies.
Do This First
Ask your major supplier's food rep to trace the life of a box of tomatoes, for example. Find out where they come from, who harvests them, how many times they are washed, what temperature they are held at during transportation, who inspects them and who makes sure you are receiving a safe product. When you are satisfied that you understand the procedures that attempt to ensure safe food, ask the local farmer to describe his or her methods. If the steps match, you may be OK. If not, continue to get your tomatoes from Sysco.
One recipe you do not want to share with your customers is the recipe for disaster, and it's your job to do everything possible to provide them with safe food. Chipotle neglected to do this and they still have huge problems.
Thanks for taking the time to read this week's blog. As usual, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have comments or wish to share your thoughts. I value your feedback.