Exclusive: Chipotle hires former critic to help improve food safety
By Lisa Baertlein, Tom Polansek and Julie Steenhuysen
(Reuters) - Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG.N: Quote) has retained two leading food safety experts - including a critic of the burrito chain's early response to disease outbreaks last year - as it redoubles its efforts to guard against health scares.
David Acheson, a former official at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was brought on as an adviser, Chipotle told Reuters.
The company also confirmed it is working with David Theno, a food safety consultant and former Jack in the Box executive who is credited with fixing food safety at the fast-food chain following a deadly E. coli outbreak in the 1990s.
The two are respected among food safety experts, and their involvement may signal an expansion in Chipotle's reforms. But the scope is not yet clear.
Spokesman Chris Arnold confirmed the consultants were retained last year but would not say when or detail their duties. As recently as early December, Acheson was sharply critical of the company's initial response to the outbreaks.
In March, the company announced it had hired James Marsden, a former meat science professor at Kansas State University, as executive director of food safety. Arnold said Marsden would have "primary responsibility for our food safety programs."
Expanding its complement of food safety experts is part of Chipotle's effort to rebound from a spate of disease outbreaks - including E. coli, salmonella and norovirus - last year that crushed sales, repulsed customers and slashed $6 billion off its market valuation.
Chipotle's ability to win back diners is vital to reviving sales and is expected to be a key topic at the company’s annual meeting on Wednesday. Continued...