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Local and organic food has extra safety risks. Just ask Chipotle.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Chipotle likes to emphasize the quality of its food, a goal summed up in the company's slogan, "Food with integrity." So it might seem paradoxical that Chipotle, of all companies, has gotten hit by a string of food safety problems.

Yet it turns out that it's not so paradoxical. This paragraph from a regulatory disclosure Chipotle filed in February — before the current food safety crisis began this summer — explains why (emphasis added):

We have made a significant commitment to serving local or organic produce when seasonally available, and a small portion of our restaurants also serves produce purchased from farmers markets seasonally as well. These produce initiatives may make it more difficult to keep quality consistent, and present additional risk of food-borne illnesses given the greater number of suppliers involved in such a system and the difficulty of imposing our quality assurance programs on all such suppliers. Quality variations and food-borne illness concerns could adversely impact public perceptions of Food With Integrity or our brand generally.

There's plenty to dislike about factory farms, but one big advantage of large-scale conventional agriculture is that it allows sophisticated quality control measures. By aggressively embracing local and organic food, Chipotle put itself — and its customers — at greater risk of doing business with suppliers with substandard safety and quality control procedures.

And as we've noted before, the benefits of organic food are scientifically dubious to start with.

Thanks to Andrew Lang for pointing out Chipotle's filing.

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