Chipotle Mexican Grill announced Tuesday that the company will be testing out RFID tags (radio frequency identification) at its Chicago distribution center and at 200 Chicago stores to improve the traceability of its inventory systems. With these tags, Chipotle will be able to track ingredients all along the supply chain, so therefore if there is a food safety issue, it can be more easily traced.
"RFID labels transform inventory management into an automatic, digital function that optimizes restaurant operations and gives our restaurant support centers access to inventory data in real-time," Chipotle chief restaurant officer Scott Boatwright said in a statement. "This integrated technology is improving our employee experience in participating restaurants while also benefiting our supply partners."
Chipotle worked with Auburn University’s RIFDLab to create the pilot program, along with RFID software provider Mojix, materials science and RFID innovator Avery Dennison, and RFID reader and encoder solutions provider Zebra Technologies. The tags will be tested on meat, dairy, and avocados from five of Chipotle’s suppliers. Here’s how it will work: ingredients will arrive at Chipotle restaurants with RFID-enabled labels and the traceability system will allow Chipotle to resolve any matters of food safety and quality issues quickly and easily.
Chipotle is using this pilot program as an opportunity to learn about RFID labels before rolling it out to the restaurants systemwide.
"We have been developing our RFID program for two years and see this innovation as the next evolution of traceability and food safety," Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs and food safety officer at Chipotle said in a statement. "We are excited to test this innovation in the field with our suppliers and restaurants to enhance our robust traceability program."
In April 2020, Chipotle settled its string of foodborne illness outbreaks from 2015 and 2016 by agreeing pay a $25 million fine as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The RFID tags could help prevent food safety issues in the future.
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