Chipotle’s claim to sell “food with integrity” is coming under fire with a California woman suing the chain for false advertising after the company heavily promoted its controversial decision to abandon all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in its ingredients.
Chipotle made a splash April 27 when it declared it was the first national restaurant company to go totally GMO-free and launched a “G-M-Over it” publicity campaign. But Colleen Gallagher alleges the company is in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and is misleading consumers about the company’s use of GMOs.
“It’s relatively easy for us to have all non-GMO ingredients,” Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said in April. “You know, we’ve always paid attention to the way we’ve sourced food since we started 22 years ago. Like artificial colors, additives, preservatives. We’d just rather not be a part of that,” he added.
The class action law suit is being filed on behalf of California consumers who bought Chipotle after April 27. Gallagher claims Chipotle’s marketing campaign was intended to appeal to health and environmentally-conscious consumers who are willing to shell out extra cash for food that meets their higher standards.
Some consumers opt for GMO-free products in the belief, which remains to be proven, that they are safer and healthier. (RELATED: Yet Another Study Confirms GMOs Are Safe, So Why Are Bans Still Spreading)
“Consumers today are very concerned about what they eat, and restaurants know that consumers place a premium on food that is considered to be healthy or natural,” said Laurence D. King, an attorney for the proposed class. “As a result, Chipotle’s advertising in its stores should have accurately informed customers about the source and quality of its ingredients and should not mislead consumers that they are serving food without GMOs when in fact they are,” she added.
Gallagher alleges “Chipotle’s menu as never been at any time free of GMOs,” but the restaurant chain said it was ready to contest the allegations. Chipotle does display disclaimers on its website informing customers that “most animal feed in the U.S. is genetically modified, which means that the meat and dairy served at Chipotle are likely to come from animals given at least some GMO feed.” But Gallagher argued customers are unlikely to see the disclaimer.
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