Chipotle to Enforce Stricter Produce Supplier Guidelines After E. Coli Crisis

December 3, 2015, 5:24 PM UTC
Chipotle Becomes First Non-GMO US Restaurant Chain
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 27: Chipotle restaurant workers fill orders for customers on the day that the company announced it will only use non-GMO ingredients in its food on April 27, 2015 in Miami, Florida. The company announced, that the Denver-based chain would not use the GMO's, which is an organism whose genome has been altered via genetic engineering in the food served at Chipotle Mexican Grills. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photograph by Joe Raedle — Getty Images

Following a recent outbreak of E. coli in its U.S. restaurants, Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) is tightening its guidelines for produce suppliers, who are a core part of the chain’s commitment to getting ingredients from local farms.

Chipotle said it would introduce stricter requirements for its suppliers in the future. In an email to Fortune on Thursday, spokesman Chris Arnold confirmed that the company is planning to announce “some of these changes in the coming days.”

A Bloomberg report published Wednesday had noted that Chipotle removed a description of its local producer program from its website last month and replaced it with a message on long-term supplier relationships.

Arnold explained to Fortune that the company “opted to remove the language about the local program from the website simply because we do not know for sure what it will look like when it comes back in season next year, and we didn’t want to over promise on that.”

Chipotle’s local program, which started in 2008, has long been a staple of the chain’s mission to source ingredients from nearby farms and not factories.

The company removed “some discussion of the local program from our website (which prompted the Bloomberg story) because the program is out of season and, with some heightened requirements for produce suppliers, we expect that some of our current local produce partners might not meet those requirements,” Arnold added.

“Our local program runs essentially from June through October, and has largely gone out of season for now,” Arnold reiterated.

Six states were affected by the E. coli crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 45 customers had gotten sick in California, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington, according to USA Today.

In September, Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota were linked to a salmonella outbreak.

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