Food Babe Investigates: Chipotle vs. Moe’s

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Vani Hari (a.k.a. The Food Babe) is a regular contributor on 100 Days of Real Food. To learn more about Vani check her out on “Our Team” page.

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.


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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205 comments to Food Babe Investigates: Chipotle vs. Moe’s

  • Kristina

    Thank you SO much for doing all of the hard work in researching this hidden information. The more I find out about what is hiding in our food, the more infuriated I become.
    This came in very handy for my boyfriend and me today. I normally pack breakfast and lunch for both of us every day, but once in a while we run out of supplies, or we opt to eat out for lunch. Today I packed mine, and left the boyfriend to fend for himself. He thought he would happily go to Chipotle down the block, until I sent him your article. Then, by doing some research all on his own, he found Dig Inn Seasonal Market. I’m not sure if you have checked it out on your NYC trips, but I perused the website ( and I have to say it looks awesome! I am proud of my boyfriend’s choice that he made based on your information, and we are both happy to support restaurants that are making healthful eating a delicious option.
    Thanks again!

  • Jobin

    Thanks for putting so much hard work into doing this. It’s very disappointing to know this. I had lunch at Chipotle today and had made breakfast and dinner and was thinking to myself, thank gosh! today was a close to paleo day. This has broken my heart to be honest. No more Chipotle for me.

    Also I cannot believe that the amount of MSG that foods in restaurants can have is unregulated. :( The more I read it just keeps getting harder and harder to eat out.

  • TD

    This just seems to be getting out of hand. You can eat all healthy, organic, no preservatives, etc….but eventually, just like everyone else, your body will get old and give out. Also, we can’t just take into account our foods but other environmental factors like the air we breathe, the water we drink, and where our waste goes. Many of these things are out of our control. We can do some good by eating in moderation, buying organic or local when available, getting good exercise, etc. But overall, I don’t believe in these extremist points of view. Many so called healthy people have the same mortality rates as others. I have personally seen this. It’s more than just food.

  • Isabel

    I agree with TD. It is all a balance.

    In regards to food choices, it is nearly impossible to dine out at any restaurant that is 100% GMO free. GMO is being pushed into everything. I personally have spent the last several months researching GMO in our food sources. For those that are vegetarians, soybeans are now 98% genetically modified. Soybean products are used extensively in food products.

    Monsanto and others will continue to use their powerful lobbyists to push their agendas and pass regulations, as well as prevent labeling of GM products. Monsanto and ALEC threaten journalists who try to expose those agendas. It is up to the majority of people to voice their opposition to this. More people should have been vocal with all the things that were attached to the Farm Bill recently.

    I think what is more appalling is the horrific treatment of animals in farm factories all over the US. I have spent considerable time looking into this as well. The more realistic approach right now, is to support restaurants who are trying to use less and less of mistreated/abused animals from farm factories, and less and less of dairy products without hormones. Chipotle is doing that when most chains will not even consider such decisions. They are not perfect, and they did clearly state it is “a journey that was started more than a decade ago and one that will never end.”

    For those that strictly read labels or are on a diet, Chipotle does a nutrition calculator.

    Although we strive to buy most of our supplies at farmers markets, let go of certain purchases to spend more on organic and locally raised items, it is nearly impossible to make three meals a day EVERY DAY at home. In this modern world, one must make concessions. If I chose to have a vegetarian bowl of brown rice and beans with salsa at Chipotle, I know it is not 100% GMO free nor is it 100& organic. However, I still feel it is fine as a dining out option once in awhile. I will continue to search and support restaurants that are trying to change the norm, and are NOT using products that are 100% from farm factories.

    In regards to GMO products (vegetables and meat), the American people need to get involved in politics, and let lawmakers know we don’t agree with this and demand a change. Otherwise, it will be almost impossible to obtain GMO free products in the near future.

    It is all a balance. People who work full-time, and have families, and are taking college courses, and are involved in the community, must sometimes make sacrifices. You can’t have the ideal choice every moment. Sometimes you must be a realist and not an idealist in this real world of ours.

    Although we what positive changes to be made in the food industry, you do the best you can with what you have at any given moment.

  • Jennifer

    THANK YOU for doing this. It has been a real eye opener. Chipotle is the only fast food place we go to because we believed it was the healthiest……very disappointing but people need to know this.

  • This is just proof that advertisements and marketing buzzwords cannot be trusted. I would have to conclude that restaurants really have no interest in my health, but rather use clever marketing so I hear the words they know I like…like “natural” and “organic” and “healthy.”

  • Holy cow … no pun intended. What a great post, and one I’ll be passing on to my twitter and facebook friends. Thanks so much for working so hard to get these facts, and for being so thorough. I’ll be boycotting both of these restaurants. It’s such a shame, but to eat healthy in this country — especially in certain parts of it, like the south, where I live — you pretty much have to boycott ALL restaurants, in particular the chains.

  • Chipotle rocks. No matter where you go, Chipotle lines are very very long. Moes in my neighbor hood on the other hand, I hardly see anyone. I am not sure how they are surviving. I did my fact check and Chipotle has better ingredients than Moes.

  • Jennifer

    Ugh…I’m repulsed. I try to avoid most restaurants anyway…but we usually feel good about Jason’s Deli. Any chance you can get the scoop there? I’d love to know if they are really as conscientious as they claim.

  • [...] finds new life in artisan kitchens (Grit/Washington Post)How to make homemade ketchup (Marocmama)What’s really in Chipotle and Moe’s (100 Days of Real Food/Food Babe) Reporter tries to find out what’s in the food at these [...]

  • Kate

    I just came across this website and I LOVE IT! I’ve had the same experience trying to get huge corporations to tell me what exactly they’re putting in their food: they refuse to give me the list but I can ask about specific chemicals that I may be allergic to. Thanks for putting together such a well-researched and incredibly informative blog :).

  • [...] Read here to find out what is really in the “healthy” food at Chipotle and Moe’s. It’s surprising! [...]

  • Sarah

    It is also worth noting that Chipotle calls itself “Food with Integrity,” yet refuses to acknowledge the low-wage labor that goes in to producing its products. There is currently a struggle to get Chipotle to pay a penny more per pound for its tomatoes, an agreement YUM foods (Burger King, Taco Bell, etc), Trader Joe’s and other food chains have made. Not only do GMO and pesticide-laden foods make the consumer, but imagine what it does to the people harvesting and producing it, often at less than minimum-wage. Food justice should be a whole chain, from producer to consumer! Check out the Coalition of Immokalee Workers site for more information:, including a piece from Michael Pollan about food justice for workers.

  • Susan

    Thank you so much for this information. I travel with my job, and unfortunately, I still have to put up with the lesser of evils. So I was very encouraged to know that there is no hidden MSG at chipotle. I hadn’t eaten there before, and now I know I can…obviously, I’d prefer that they did non GMO oils, organic chicken and listed their ingredients for easier access. But in the meantime, in TEMPLE Texas, I found something I could live with in a salad with the non-MSG chicken. I used to eat at Chili’s and Taco Cabana for my grilled chicken salad while traveling, but they’ve let me know they use hidden sources of MSG (Chili’s) and actual MSG at TacoCabana. So blessings to you Lisa. When you have time, would love to hear your thoughts on Jason’s Deli. That’s another place I eat frequently when I travel.

  • sniperdoc

    Vani Hari, I was contacted by Dan Barash, Executive Chef from Moe’s Southwest Grill. He gave me his personal cell phone to have a chat with him. This was prompted by my email message to Moe’s that they’d lost a long time customer due to your expose.

    However, he also mentioned that he spoke with you and had a great conversation with you. Would you care to impart some of that conversation to your readers.

    In some of the responses to readers about which restaurant is better and what not. Personally Chipotle’s in Gainesville FL is meager at best and I find the food was much more flavorful at Moe’s in Gville. So, I guess it all depends on how much effort the staff puts forth in preparing the food properly and making you feel like they want you as a customer. Quite frankly, for someone at Moe’s to actually respond… I have to give them kudos for that alone. I’ll disclose what Dan and I talked about after I read Vani’s response…

  • Love Food Babe’s investigations! Great job and very interesting. Sad that these two companies will not readily give their ingredients. Thank you for all of your hard work!

  • Allie

    I know this doesn’t really apply but what about Qdoba?? That’s where we prefer to get our burrito fix :) just wondering!

  • Katy

    I just read this and decided to do a quick investigation myself. Surely some of this information was wrong (yeah, I know. But many consider my stubborn behavior to be an asset.). What I discovered was almost every single food product they have has soy in it. I have asked people about this and was told the opposite. Now I understand our younger son’s issues after eating at Chipotle. Just yesterday we ate there while on a trip. Today I have been banging my head trying to decipher his soy reaction. We will never be able to eat at Chipotle again due to their desire to cheapen foods with this product. Thank you for helping me figure that out. It will save my son’s health, for sure.

  • [...] For more on Hari’s findings, including details on dangerous ingredients and GMO information, check out 100 Days of Real Food. [...]

  • BT

    I really apperciate this information, because my husband and I try to eat as healthy as possible, especially for reasons of health and fertility. However, I have to ask – we’re so concerned about everything in our food, but are these same people concerned about what they’re using for birth control? Hormonal contraceptives like birth control are classified as a first class carcogenic and through human waste, we are excreting estrogens into our environment. Are the same people who are willing to eat more naturally also willing to use a natural form of fertility regulation? I know I am! It goes both ways. If we’re going to be healthy in one aspect of our lives, let’s be consistent and look at ALL areas of our life.

  • Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!! :) I appreciate you doing the legwork and sharing it with us all. My girlfriend and I were having dinner last night, talking about where we can and cannot eat and I have to say that it’s really coming down to almost nowhere sadly. As someone who is allergic to MSG and all MSG derivatives (Excitotoxins) like Torula yeast, autolyzed yeast extract, whey protein concentrate, hydrolyzed proteins which are all just forms of MSG, this article was a good one considering I eat at Chipotle about twice per month. I recently ate at Moe’s and didn’t find the food to have the salty msg-taste that others have so I thought I was good. However, my eye has been super puffy and itchy and I’m having the reactions that I get when eating MSG (up until the past few weeks I’ve been eating at home preparing my own meals from scratch).

    We all must do our part to learn all we can about what we consume. I read an article called The Great Culling on Natural News a few weeks ago. Apparently Bill Gates bought 500,000 shares of stock in Monsanto in 2010. He is part of an extreme group whose plan is to wipe out 90% of the population with GMO’s, keeping people on prescription meds, basically making people sick. He’s even been cited saying if we do, X,Y,Z we can eliminate X amount of the population. This goes far beyond creating large crop yields and feeding the masses, Monsanto has a much greater agenda. We need to enjoy our organic food now, because even that’s about to change as they are now trying to make it so that Organic food becomes GMO. Here is the article:

  • Also, after tweeting your link on Twitter, Chipotle contacted me to send my concern about allergies to customer service. I found this on their website which shows that the steak, chicken, etc., all have soy oil in them including the cilantro rice and corn chips!! Good grief! This would explain why many have food allergies. People are being mislead thinking they’re allergic to corn, etc. when really it’s the soy oil that’s on it. They think they’re allergic to dairy but it’s the lack of proper enzymes in pasteurized milk and the hormones that are the issue. I don’t believe most people are allergic to soy, it’s that 98% is GMO soy. It’s the chemicals and the Roundup that monsanto plants in its seeds before the food is ever grown. Does anyone ever wonder why such a large percent of the population has all of a sudden become so allergic to so many foods??

    Here is the link showing where they use soybean oil and soybeans in their food:

  • kris

    Hey, while everyone appreciates your enthusiasm for finding out the ingredients of foods at Chipotle and Noes I would like to point out some things you may have forgotten to consider. Firstly, I am an employee at Chipotle and I am telling you, from personal knowledge, the only preservative we use is citrus juice. Its mixed in our corn salsa, tomato salsa, guacomole and both pinto and black beans. Tabasco sauce acts as a preservative for our red tomatillo salsa. Our chicken and steak is marinated by hand daily with honey, soy oil, salt, and adobo. Salt is used as an ingredient in most of our foods if you consider that a preservative as well. Lettuce is hand cut every morning and never stored over night. Our chips and hard corn tacos are fried in sunflower oil not soy oil.
    If you were curious about what was in your food all you have to do is ask an employee. We memorize our recipes and can tell you every ingredient. If we don’t know the exact ingredient we have all that information in books in the back of the house. Example, I found out after reading a book of ours that our green tomatillo sales contains tomatoes. All you have to do is ask someone that works in a store. People sitting in an office making 4x as much as I do wont care. They train others to train us to care about our food. That’s what happens in a corporation.
    We make gaucomole everyday starting from the avodaco its self where we still have to personally remove the pit by spoon. Soy oil is only used for the chicken and steak and in the rice as well as the vinagrette (which we make every day fresh). Cilantro and oregano and onions and jalepenos are all cut fresh.
    I’m not saying we are the best thing in existence but I am saying we are better than what you make of us. Chipotles saying “food with integrity” means we take pride is being one of the few companies that have practically all organic foods and that we hand make all our foods. We go to local farmers and buy vegetables from them if it is season. We don’t fill our meats with all those steriods etc. They’re free range.
    I hope this helps a little. I’m not mad, I just want the facts given and I want you to be able to listen to an actual employee.

  • kris

    Oh and the term healthy is overrated. We have healthier food than some places cause of the organicness of it and no pesticides etc etc however, if u look at our menus, there’s a lot of calories. Especially if you choose to be greedy and pit 2-3 servings of rice in your burrito. Just because we have food with integrity doesn’t mean we will make you lose weight

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