Chipotle Mexican Grill is changing how it handles fresh food preparation in an effort to make improvements with the company’s food safety after months of reported illnesses across the U.S.

Previously, fresh produce like cilantro, lettuce and tomatoes were prepared at each restaurant location. Now, those items will be prepped at a centralized kitchen, packaged in plastic bags and shipped to each individual store.

In addition to this change, Chipotle is reducing its dependence on locally grown ingredients. The chain believes that these small suppliers will have a hard time keeping up with new food safety standards. This move goes against what Chipotle has always stood for as the company has built a massive following due to their insistence on using local ingredients. The use of major food suppliers and frozen ingredients is new territory for sure.

Steve Ells, Chipotle founder says, "You could bring fresh cilantro right out of the field into the restaurant and wash it there. I don’t think that would be any better than washing the cilantro in the commissary. And if dried properly and then sealed in the bags, it’s a delicious product."

But the chain isn’t abandoning local farmers completely.

"We continue to be committed to working with local suppliers," says Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesperson. "Because we have enhanced standards for food safety and testing, we expect that some of our local suppliers might have more trouble meeting those standards (particularly as it relates to testing), but we are also exploring ways that we might be able to help them meet those new standards."

According to Arnold, locally sourced ingredients only account for about 10% of Chipotle's produce.

Related articles:
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Chipotle Releases Enhanced Food Safety Program 
Chipotle’s Pacific Northwest Stores Reopen After E. coli Outbreak
Chipotle Hit with Lawsuit As More E. coli Cases Emerge
E. coli Outbreak Closes Chipotle Restaurants in Oregon and Washington

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