Chipotle Becomes First Fast Food Chain to Disclose GMO Information

ChipotleChipotle Mexican Grill is not your average fast food chain. The company is known for sourcing locally grown, organic ingredients, which definitely makes it a different kind of fast food. Now Chipotle is informing customers about the genetically modified (GMO) ingredients in its food via its website. Chipotle’s website has a full “ingredients statement” about all of the company’s menu items, and GMO ingredients contain a “G.”

At this time, the company has no plans to put the information on the menu boards in restaurants due to the “limited real estate,” Chipotle spokesperson Chris Arnold told BusinessWeek. Considering the widespread adoption of smart phones, posting the information on its website seems to be a great way to adopt GMO labeling.

Chipotle’s adoption of GMO labeling is a big deal for those who want such labeling, as the company has 1,450 restaurants as of June 2013 and $2.7 billion in annual revenue. And there are many who want GMO labeling, as polls show. A recent ABC News poll conducted in June found that 93 percent of those polled believed the federal government should require labels on GMO food. Two other recent polls found similar results. A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted in March found that 82 percent polled think GMO foods should be labeled. An NPR poll found that 93 percent of those polled think GMO foods should be labeled, and 64 percent were unsure if they were safe to eat.

Clearly, the majority of American favor GMO labeling, so it makes good business sense for a company like Chipotle to disclose whether the ingredients for its foods are GMO. Chipotle joins good company, as Whole Foods announced earlier this year that it would start labeling all GMO foods sold in its stores by 2018. Many countries around the world require GMO foods to be labeled. According to the Center for Food Safety, there are 64 countries that mandate GMO labeling.

Chipotle is working to reduce the amount of GMO ingredients

Chipotle is working to reduce the amount of GMO ingredients in its food. On its website, Chipotle states that its “goal is to eliminate GMOs from Chipotle’s ingredients, and we’re working hard to meet this challenge.” To that end, the company is switching from soybean oil to sunflower oil for frying because most soy in the U.S. is GMO, and sunflowers have not been genetically modified. “Where our food contains currently unavoidable GM ingredients, it is only in the form of corn or soy,” the website declares.

One problem the company has run into is in the area of animal feed because most grain used for animal feed is GMO, including most of the grain used to feel the animals that provide the meat and dairy for Chipotle’s menu. “While we are striving to eliminate GMOs from our supply chain, there is currently not a viable supply of responsibly raised meats and dairy from animals raised without GMO feed,” Chipotle states on its website. However, the company recognizes that animal feed “is an area for potential improvement.” It will not be easy area to address. As the company’s spokesperson told BusinessWeek, “Our food system is so dominated by these big industrial food producers.”

Photo: Flickr user, .aditya.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.