Food Babe Investigates: Chipotle vs. Moe’s

This is a guest post by Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe).

Before I get into the meat of this next investigation (no pun intended), I’d like to express my disappointment with Chipotle and Moe’s. Both of them made it extremely difficult (just like Yoforia) to get the exact ingredients in their product offerings. With marketing phrases like “Food with Integrity” and “Feed the Moement” – you’d think their messages would easily be backed by ingredients they would be willing to share. Unfortunately, this is not the case at all and it took extreme perseverance to get quality information about their ingredients. Perseverance the average consumer would likely never have.

It’s saddening to watch two competitors leading the way in organic/local/healthy fast food offerings being so secretive. If they were true leaders, they would have nothing to hide, right? I’m not saying Subway, Panera Bread and McDonalds are better than Chipotle or Moe’s – but you do have to hand it to them for willingly posting their ingredients for everyone to see.

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.

I had to call the headquarters of Moe’s every single day for 8 days, visit 2 different Moe’s, and call 5 different locations in different states to finally get the full story. Moe’s company does not provide their stores with an ingredient list of what they are serving, only an allergy info guide. Since the stores throw out the labeled boxes as soon as the food packages comes in, you would have no hope in knowing exactly what you are eating unless you call the headquarters and badger them until they finally concede.

I can only assume Chipotle and Moe’s are betting that you’ll give up and continue to be acquiesced with their marketing messages that in many cases are misleading and in some cases inaccurate.  Now that you know what it took to get this information, let’s take a look at the results of the investigation.



Both restaurants use cheap genetically modified (a.k.a. GMO) soybean oil to make most of their food. Over-consumption of this cheap oil is causing  an imbalance of Omega 6 fatty acids, which increases the risk of inflammation, heart disease, obesity, and prostate and bone cancer.

Chipotle and Moe’s both pride themselves that your meal can be “customized,” but when I asked if they could make my food without GMO oils, they couldn’t. The chicken, beef, rice, beans and the tortillas (flour, corn and soft) are all not customizable, so you have no choice but to consume GMOs if you order these items.

If you are a regular consumer of Chipotle and Moe’s because of their “local, organic and healthy” messages, you also need to be concerned about consuming GMOs. Here’s why:

  • Over 50 countries have significant restrictions or outright bans on GMOs, but here in the United States the FDA continues to not require safety standards or testing on GMOs. To date, there has been no long term study conducted for humans.
  • The Institute of Responsible Technology reported a study showing GMOs caused toxic and allergic reactions, sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals.
  • After consuming GMOs, your intestines basically turn into a breeding ground for pesticides (here’s a video explaining further). GMO soy and corn actually produce pesticides inside themselves. The plant becomes toxic inside so insects won’t eat it.
  • A study conducted and published in the Anatomical Record revealed that female rats fed GMO soy for 15 months showed significant health issues in their uterus and reproductive cycle, compared to rats fed organic soy or those raised without soy.
  • A 2009 French Study concluded the key ingredient in GMO soy can kill the cells in the outer layer of the human placenta, the organ that connects the mother to her fetus, providing nutrients and oxygen and emptying waste products.
  • A Russian study conducted on hamsters that were fed GMO soy diets for two years over three generation found that by the third generation, most of the hamsters lost the ability to have babies, showed slower growth, and suffered a higher mortality rate.
  • Fertility issues in males were also observed when a study on male rabbits found a decrease in sexual activity and sperm concentration and an increase in dead or abnormal sperm when they were fed GM soy.
  • Please note – Since neither Chiptole’s or Moe’s carries 100% Organic USDA certified label meat, the animals were all likely raised with GMO feed, which does get transferred to us when we consume it.

I could really go on and on forever listing out the different studies about the potential health consequences and why you should be concerned about consuming GMOs. I would also like to note that you will likely encounter GMOs at any restaurant (or with any processed, packaged foods) unless it is 100% organic. If you want to learn even more – This PDF from the Institute of Responsible Technology is a great reference. And if you live in California – you must vote “Yes to Prop 37” this November to label GMOs. The outcome will likely effect all of us.

So what else did I find? Here’s a closer look at some of my other discoveries:

  • Moe’s Grass-Fed Steak – This is where Moe’s really messes up. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to say their “No MSG” label on their marketing is a big fat lie. They lace their prized grass-fed meat with 3 hidden sources of MSG – hydrolyzed soy protein, hydrolyzed corn and hydrolyzed yeast. The amount of MSG that restaurants can put in your food is not regulated. MSG is an excitotoxin that “if given in large enough doses” can excite brain cells to deathMSG can cause adverse reactions in some people including “skin rashes, itching, hives, nausea, vomiting, migraine headaches, asthma, heart irregularities, depression and even seizures.”
  • Moe’s Ground Beef – Not organic, likely contains hormones and antibiotics, contains chemical preservatives and sweetened with corn syrup. I didn’t know ground beef needed to be sweetened, yuck.
  • Chipotle’s Pork Carnitas – The only meat available to be made without GMO soybean oil.
  • Chipotle’s & Moe’s Flour Tortillas – Made with enriched white flour and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (a.k.a. trans fat). “Previous trials have linked even a 40-calorie-per-day increase in trans fat intake 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.
  • Chipotle’s Corn Tacos (soft or hard) – Contains preservatives and cellulose that’s made from wood pulp. Cellulose is used as filler to processed foods because it doesn’t contain calories or fat content and is cheap. Your body simply cannot use this ingredient at all nutritionally and lacks the enzymes to digest it. The thought of a company adding a cheap filler to my food to boost profits just doesn’t sit well with me, and tortillas are easily made without it.
  • Moe’s Whole Grain Tortilla – Contains many preservatives and colored with a potential carcinogen (caramel coloring) proven to cause liver tumors, lung tumors, and thyroid tumors in rats and mice.
  • Chipotle’s Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa, Tomatoes and Cilantro – These are the only two guaranteed items at Chipotle that are GMO free.
  • Moe’s El Guapo Salsa – Also colored with questionable caramel coloring. WOW. Why did they add color to the salsa? Because Moe’s salsa is a highly processed product that is mainly tomato concentrate, not real chopped tomatoes.
  • Chipotle’s Cheese – Only 65% of their cheese offering is from naturally raised cattle. Are you willing to take a 35% chance and consume antibiotics and growth hormone? 8/15 Update: Chipotle responded and said their dairy, including their cheese is now 100% antibiotic and growth hormone free – but only 65% pastured raised.
  • Moe’s Queso – Processed cheese product that is not from naturally raised animals. Contains propylene glycol, a petroleum based chemical food additive. It’s the same stuff you can find in antifreeze, and it has been reported that the following symptoms can arise after repeated small doses – throat irritation, headache, backache, and kidney problems.
  • Some Good News – Moe’s and Chipotle do not use microwaves nuking food to death or allowing it to sit out cold and be reheated again and again.

VERDICT: Clearly, based on the overly processed nature of Moe’s products, Chipotle is the lesser of two evils, especially if you just stick to a salad with guacamole and salsa. For me – I am tired of always having to choose between the lesser of two evils and it’s going to be hard to support or trust either establishment until they man up and post their ingredients.

If you are wondering how I’m going to satisfy my burrito craving until then, check out a ridiculously fast 100% organic, non-GMO, and additive free recipe here.

Comments have been closed on this article, which was written by Vani Hari. If you have a question or comment you can reach her at

Vani HariVani Hari a.k.a. Food Babe is an organic living expert, food activist and writer on She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world. The success in her writing and investigative work can be seen in the way food companies react to her uncanny ability to find and expose the truth. To follow Vani, check her out on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.


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  • Comments

    1. Austin |

      It’s a journey folks. Chipotle embarked on this journey over a decade ago and decided to do things better. You can’t flip a switch and go all organic. You have to source the food and investigate. To think that after 50+ years of destroying our food chain that it can be fixed overnight is ridiculous. Think of your friends and families does everyone care about this as much as you or I, the overwhelming answer is no. Until more people vote w/ their fork to improve it, it will be slow going. So bashing companies that are trying to do the right thing, but can’t always because the sources aren’t there. That 65% will be 100% when it’s possible. Think about the millions of pounds of beans that Chipotle uses and if there were enough to supply us with 100% organic then it would happen. Sourcing locally, no other chain has an initiative to buy locally. If you want to focus on the negative then do so, but realize that in 9 years Chipotle went from 10% organic beans in 300 restaurants to 45% in 1300 restaurants, that’s huge and supports a lot of organic farmers.

    2. Jenni |

      Good information, though I am surprised at level of frustration you felt during your investigation. I have not yet heard of any “fast food” restaurant that provides real food, quality food for someone who seeks to eat an unprocessed diet. I believe the only way to eat a fully unprocessed diet is to make the food at home, that way you will know what exactly is in the food and how it has been produced. It is my belief that any time you choose to eat out, you will have to choose the “less evil” option. It would be nearly impossible for a restaurant to provide fresh, organic ingredients at a price most people are willing to pay. That’s why we believe in the 80/20 rule and love us some Chipotle every now and then!

    3. Tom McNicholas |

      VERY NICE!! This cements some things for me, thanks for your efforts.

    4. Cynthia |

      Well the good news is that I stopped eating the corn salsa at Chipolte because I just assumed it was GMO corn and now I know it’s not. The bad news is I also thought Moe’s was a healthier choice when out and about and I have just had that bubble burst… long Moe’s…..

    5. emily |

      Interesting and somewhat disappointing article– proves that there is a lot of work to be done in the realm ‘healthy fast food.’ However, I would like to make one correction. It was stated that GMO soy/corn forms pesticides in your intestine, as it does in insects that eat it it is true that the toxin (known as Bt) kills the insects that eat it, but Bt has no effects on other organisms that would possibly spread a plant’s seeds instead of destroying the seed. Many other fruits and vegetables, if I am not mistaken, naturally have Bt in them for the reason stated above. When making such emotional and radical arguements, I believe it’s important to have the facts without any alarmist language or speculation.

    6. Danielle |

      Yawn. I started visiting your website trying to eat healthy, but you all take it to a new level. Relax a little! Chipotle is not going to kill you or give you cancer. All this info just sounds like propaganda, trying to scare people into eating “your way”.

      • Kitt |

        It isn’t propaganda – it’s an ingredients list that Chipotle obviously tries very hard to keep hidden, given their “local” and “natural” marketing. It’s a “just so you know” for people who care, not a scare tactic. These are the facts – and if they sound scary, it’s because they are. Do you think FoodBabe made up the ingredients list or something? No, you won’t die tomorrow if you stop at Chipotle for lunch today, but I don’t think anyone is saying that. This blog is concerned with the health ramifications that may come from eating unnatural things. If it’s not your cup of tea, that’s fine. Take what you can use and leave the rest. Best way there is to use the internet.

    7. Susie |

      CALIFORNIA WAKE UP and VOTE YES ON 37 in NOVEMBER. PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD. It will be one way to take a stand.

      • |

        Amen Sister!

    8. Kim |

      This is so sad, Moe’s was one of the last chain places that our family would eat out and I always praised them for being better than other places with their healthy example, BOY WAS I WRONG! We will not be eating there anymore! Thanks for exposing this!

    9. rachel |

      I agree with the previous commenters who said the negativity in some of the posts in this series is a turn-off.

      Seriously, 65% of their dairy is from good sources and you are going to pick on the 35%? Are you aware of any other fast food chains where the majority of their dairy products are from hormone/antibiotic-free cows?

      You’re mad that 100% of their meat is not USDA certified organic? I buy only “good meat” from local farmers and none of it is certified organic. Chipotle in VA buys pork from Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms–that’s not organic, but I’d be ecstatic to eat it.

      Let’s not let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Chipotle is still a better option than pretty much any other fast food chain. And instead of greenwashing, it seems like they’re really trying–so let’s encourage them with our business instead of tearing them down.

      • |

        Rachel – Nope not mad at that per say… but disappointed they won’t willingly post their ingredients. I love Poly-face farms. I had a turkey from there a couple of thanksgivings ago. The post was not intended to praise any one restaurant – rather uncover things about their food that the general public are unaware of. GMOs are serious and deserves notable attention – especially if someone is eating at Chipotle, thinking it’s “healthy.”

    10. Laura |

      What do you mean by “GMO corn taco shells”? What GMO corn variety is sold for human consumption? What is the type of corn and the source of the information?

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