Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been around for several decades now, and their widespread commercial use as food crops means they are found in a very broad range of food products in the United States. One concerned American argues that Chipotle Mexican Grill was very aware of this basic fact, but chose to falsely advertise that its foods were “GMO-free” when they were not.
California resident Colleen Gallagher has filed a federal lawsuit claiming false advertising by Chipotle following its April 27th announcement this year that it was the first national restaurant chain to use only ingredients that are GMO-free.
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Filed last week in San Francisco, Gallagher’s lawsuit also claims that Chipotle is in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act because its food labeling is misleading and deceives diners into paying more for food that is actually much the same as competitors.
Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold refused to comment on the lawsuit, but noted that “we do plan to contest this.”
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In her court filing, Gallagher alleges that: “As Chipotle told consumers it was ‘G-M-Over it,’ the opposite was true. In fact, Chipotle’s menu as never been at any time free of GMOs.”
Keep in mind that surveys have consistently shown that U.S. restaurant goers are willing to pay a premium price for food they perceive to be less processed and more natural or organic, and restaurants have seen increased sales in these segments.
Defenders of the popular burrito and bowl chain point out that Chipotle’s website does have a disclaimer about the actual GMO content in its products.
For example, the disclaimer notes: “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.” It continues to say that “many of the beverages sold in our restaurants contain genetically modified ingredients.”
In the lawsuit, Gallagher argues that the vast majority of Chipotle patrons are bot going to see these disclaimers on a sub-page of the chain’s website, and base their decision on the company’s advertising, assuming it is true.
The lawsuit is seeking certification of class action status and also asks for unspecified damages.