Oh Chipotle. In 2015 and early 2016, the Colorado-based restaurant chain made headlines for serving up several foodborne illness outbreaks that dramatically drained customers’ gastrointestinal tracts. Now the chain is making headlines for dramatically filling customers.
In a lawsuit (PDF) filed Nov. 16 in Los Angeles Superior Court, three nutrition-conscious customers allege they were tricked into eating high-calorie Chorizo burritos after seeing Chipotle ads suggesting the swaddled meals contain only 300 contain calories. One plaintiff, David Desmond, realized he was cheated when he felt “excessively full” after eating the burrito, the lawsuit said. Along with the other two plaintiffs, Edward Gurevich and Young Hoon Kim, Desmond is seeking unspecified damages and class action status for the complaint.
Their lawsuit stems from one character in particular, seen independently by the plaintiffs at Chipotle restaurants in Los Angeles. The ad features a photo of a stuffed burrito and says, “CHORIZO BURRITO: Try our new deliciously seasoned, perfectly grilled spicy chicken and pork sausage in a burrito with white rice, black beans, fresh tomato salsa and a sprinkle of cheese.” The bottom of the plate says “300 calories.”
The trio claims they understood the plate meant the entire burrito was 300 calories, given the photo and detailed description. According to Chipotle’s own nutritional information, a single serving of the chorizo alone is 300 calories. When wrapped in a burrito with all the ingredients listed on the plate, the total calories come to 1,055 — more than half of a standard 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
The plaintiffs say the signage amounts to an “unfair, unlawful and/or fraudulent and unscrupulous practice of grossly misrepresenting the nutritional values of its food products,” which violates local health and safety codes, plus corporate codes. In addition, the three allege that because Chipotle has marketed their Mexican Grill restaurants as serving “food with integrity”, customers are “slumped into the false belief that the items they are eating are healthier than they are, and thereby repeatedly encourage patronage…”
In a statement to Ars, Chipotle communications director Chris Arnold said:
As a matter of policy, we do not discuss details of pending legal action. However, I would like to point out that a lawsuit is nothing more than an accusation and proof of nothing. We work very hard to maintain transparency about what goes into our food, and so do our practices for disclosing nutritional information.