On my birthday last Friday, I received an AMAZING present. It was an email from Chris Arnold, the Communications Director at Chipotle, that read “Tadah!” in the subject line and had a link attached to the body of the email.
The link directed me to the Chipotle’s website where they finally released a comprehenstive list of all their ingredients online.
Back in August of last year, I did an investigation that ultimately left me frustrated with the company. When inquiring about the ingredients – I was met with significant challenge and had to work my way around the corporate headquarters to actually find out the ingredients.
Here’s an excerpt and infographic from my investigation that sums up my experience quite nicely -
When I emailed Chipotle asking for the ingredients in certain products they downright refused. They in turn asked if I was concerned about a specific ingredient or had an allergy. Really? Why do I have to be concerned about a specific ingredient or have an allergy to want to know what I am eating and what’s in my food? When I tried to call them, there was no way for me to leave a message or get a person on the phone to answer my questions. Email responses were S-L-O-W. I had to ask very specific questions to get the data I needed to write this – specific questions that most consumers would likely not ask. Thank goodness for the genuinely accommodating employee who shared some of the ingredients with me (behind his Manager’s back) so I could give you the full story.
A few weeks after my investigation, Chris from Chipotle contacted me and asked me to meet with him, so I could better understand their challenges with posting their ingredient list. I’ve been in contact with him ever since – asking for periodic updates and making sure he knew I wasn’t going to let Chipotle off the hook. To keep the pressure on, some folks were so inspired by the investigation, that they created a petition on my behalf, where 2400+ people shared their voice in concern.
So that begs the question – what’s really in Chipotle’s food now that we can easily find the ingredients and read them for ourselves? Some of the original results of my investigation still hold true – but Chipotle made a major oil switch in some of their products like the black beans that don’t use GMO oil any longer and has made a fanastic committment to eliminate the transfat, preservatives and other GMO ingredients in the future.
As you can see – putting pressure on companies to change their ingredients and petitioning them to change their practices leads to actual results. We together are changing the food system – and today we have a win in terms of true transparency and knowing what’s in our food!
If you live in Manhattan – Chipotle is using rice bran oil instead of the GMO soybean oil for meat preparation – so for you lucky New Yorkers, you can avoid the GMO oil they currently use in their chicken and beef.
For the rest of us, in the meantime, I still wouldn’t order the chicken, beef, tortilla products, rice, salad dressing or chips – those items still contain GMO soybean oil. In several states, the chips and corn tortillas have benzoic acid – a preservative that I would avoid at all costs. Studies have shown this ingredient to be linked to decreased good bacteria in the gut in animal studies. The Mayo Clinic reported that this preservative increases hyperactivity in children. Also, when this acid combines with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), it can form benzene, carcinogen that damages DNA in cells and accelerates aging.
Chipotle’s burrito and flour taco shells have partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (a.k.a. trans fat). “A 40-calorie-per-day increase in trans fat intake can lead to a 23% higher risk of heart disease.” 40 calories is a mere 2% of a typical 2000 calorie per day diet. Trans fats can be deadly even in a small amount and as you can see will easily add up if you go over one serving size.
I have to be completely honest, I haven’t been to Chipotle in over six years, but I wouldn’t be shy about eating there again now that I know I can order some options without GMOs, preservatives, and transfat. I’m actually pretty excited about that fact.
This is what my order would look like if I went there… A salad with:
- Organic black beans
- Romaine lettuce
- Fresh tomato salsa (and maybe try the others without the corn)
- A huge serving of guacamole
- Possibly sour cream or cheese if I were feeling fancy
- If you are a meat eater – you could add pork carnitas to that list – since they do not use any GMO oil during the cooking preparation
I hope you celebrate this accomplishment with me and praise Chipotle for their changes.
It’s a great day in the world – however, we have a lot more work to do, don’t we? I can only wonder when Kraft will have the courage to meet with us and address the concerns of over 270,000+ consumers.