A lawsuit filed this week on behalf of California consumers claims that Chipotle's marketing is misleading and deceptive.
From the release:
Specifically, the complaint alleges that Chipotle has marketed its "Food With Integrity" brand to healthy-lifestyle and environmentally conscious consumers who are willing to pay premium prices for food that aligns with the consumers' ethical eating choices. The lawsuit alleges that beginning on April 27, 2015, Chipotle launched a multi-media publicity campaign that advertised and represented to consumers that Chipotle was "G-M-Over it" and that it only uses "non-GMO ingredients." The complaint alleges that Chipotle's claims are false and misleading to customers because Chipotle's menu was never free of GMOs at any time. Among other things, the complaint alleges that Chipotle serves meat products that come from animals which feed on GMOs, including soy and corn, that its sour cream and cheese ingredients come from dairy farms that feed animals with GMOs, and that Chipotle sells soft drinks that are made with corn-syrup—a GMO.
Here is how Chipotle explains their use of GMOs. It leads with this: "When it comes to our food, genetically modified ingredients don’t make the cut."
This is mostly true. As it turns out, the soda available in the store contains high fructose corn syrup, nearly always made with GMO corn. Much of the meat served comes from animals fed GMO feed, which I've learned, is the vast majority of feed sold in the United States. Chipotle doesn't hide this, but you have to read their entire explanation - beyond the tagline - to get to it.
GMOs are a sticky subject. The science really isn't there to connect the dots to negative health outcomes. I don't avoid them, particularly after taking Dr. Susan McCouch's plant breeding course at Cornell. The only true way to avoid GMOs is to buy organic or be verified by this third-party seal (save possible contamination and testing methodology, acknowledged by the non-GMO project, the folks behind the seal).
Nonetheless, it makes you think about the ramifications of a company making significant change and how it's then communicated to the public. One easy switch is to pull sugary soda from Chipotle's restaurants (so far I haven't read that this is being considered). This would be a major step forward and tackle both part of the GMO issue they are eager to stand behind as well as a commitment to serving healthier food and ingredients. We'll see how it shakes out and report back.