Longshot Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee told the Iowa Pork Producers Association on Wednesday that Chipotle’s recent food safety problems don’t reflect weaknesses in the country’s regulation.
Rather, the former Arkansas governor said, the popular restaurant chain’s woes reveal that marketing of organic and ingredients free of genetically modified crops doesn’t necessarily offer healthier fare.
“It’s when people try to pretend their farming is superior,” Huckabee told about two dozen people attending a presidential forum as part of the pork group’s meeting in downtown Des Moines. “They were all so pure. They were organic. They didn’t use pesticides. … Turns out their ways weren’t so wonderful after all.”
Chipotle saw its sales fall dramatically after an E. coli outbreak that came to light at the end of October. Then in December, dozens of customers were sickened by a norovirus outbreak in Boston.
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The chain’s marketing has emphasized that much of its food is locally grown, that its suppliers are less likely to use pesticides or genetically modified organisms — crops designed to resist insects or herbicides.
Some critics have said that boutique approach may have played a part in its food safety issues in recent months.
The company has said in a regulatory filing it was asked to produce a broad range of documents tied to a norovirus outbreak last summer at its restaurant in Simi Valley, Calif. But it’s also said the investigation does not involve the Boston E. coli outbreak.
Huckabee said he doesn’t want the country to “overreact and see more federal involvement. I’d rather see the regulation at the state level.”
Huckabee also promised the hog farmers that as president he would open more foreign markets for American agriculture, cracking down on protectionist efforts of other country’s that keep U.S. commodities out.