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Chipotle's E. Coli Outbreak Shines a Light on Food Safety

11/23/15 10:17 AM

The popular food chain Chipotle has been in the news much more lately, and not for a good reason. To date, at least 42 people have contracted the E. Coli bacteria, as a result of eating food from Chipotle.  The company’s 43 locations that were involved have just recently reopened since the breakout occurred on October 19th. This unfortunate outbreak is a frightening reminder of the importance of food safety is and how critical it is to strictly follow FDA guidelines.

The first outbreak at Chipotle was only linked to 11 restaurants in Washington and Oregon, but the CDC has recently confirmed that illnesses in California, New York, and Ohio were also related. Although no one has died from this outbreak eight people in total have been hospitalized. The source of the contamination is still under investigation and remains unclear, but health officials believe that a single ingredient caused this outbreak.

Although Chipotle is not the only one to blame, they are the only one whose name appears in the news. There is a high level of trust in the food supply chain, and companies like Chipotle often take this for granted. It is sometimes assumed that failing to check the temperature on just one load of incoming food it is not going to hurt anyone, but that is not the case. Food safety must be taken seriously by everyone throughout the food supply chain and exceptions are always a risk.

According to the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention multistate foodborne outbreaks during 2010-2014 include:

  • An Average of 24 multistate outbreaks each year, involving 37 states
  • Salmonella accounted for the most illnesses and hospitalizations and was traced to eggs, chicken, and raw ground tuna
  • Listeria caused the most deaths, largely from an outbreak of contaminated cantaloupe in 2011 that killed 33 people

Chipotle is not the first company to be in the spotlight for poor food safety procedures, and they won’t be the last, but what are industries like this doing to prevent future outbreaks? The answer is clear; accurate, continuous temperature monitoring.

All meats should be cooked to the core temperature of 160 °F for at least 15 seconds, this will help to kill any E. Coli bacteria. The danger zone for food is between 40 °F and 140 °F, to avoid risk, perishable foods should be stored below 40 °F and cooked to above 140 °F.

To ensure the internal temperatures of food and meat reach the required temperatures a HiTemp140 data logger probe can be inserted into the food, recording the internal temperature throughout cooking and cooling. In addition, a small compact data logger such as the Temp101A can be placed inside a refrigerator with any perishable item to be sure that the temperature does not rise above 40 °F.

The food supply chain starts at the farm and ends when the food is on your fork. To be sure food is kept at the correct temperature for the whole duration of a trip, data loggers can accompany the food on the truck to the warehouse or to the store. This will give an accurate temperature reading for the entire duration of the journey to validate that food is safe for eating.

Food safety guidelines are continuously changing, new regulations and processes are being developed to help make sure that food is safe for consumption. Temperature will always play a role in the safety of your food whether it be during shipping, cooking or storing. The handling of these temperature sensitive products are regulated for the safety of the consumer. Data loggers provide the means to monitor them every step of the way and if done properly, will prevent foodborne illness outbreaks.

To learn more about MadgeTech food processing data loggers click here.

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MadgeTech Marketing Team