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.

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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.

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Vani HariVani Hari a.k.a. Food Babe is an organic living expert, food activist and writer on FoodBabe.com. 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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213 comments to Food Babe Investigates: Chipotle vs. Moe’s

  • Joetta

    I am sadden to see that Chipotle is like that, My boyfriend and I like to eat their due to being healthy, but once again I have been let down. I have a garden and we eat very natural, but I do like to eat out sometimes….are their really any place that we can eat that would not take us off our natural food lifestyle? If someone can guide me to a couple places I would be extremely happy!

  • Kitt

    I didn’t know this, but I’m not even slightly surprised. This is why I had to give up pretty much all restaurants after developing a soy allergy. They sneak that garbage into EVERYthing, including places where it has no business, like in grass-fed beef. Thanks for spreading the word; most people have no idea what they’re putting into their bodies.

    • Wow Kitt – That must be a tough allergy for you. My acupuncture says I am sensitive to soy as well but I haven’t had any major reactions I am aware of…So I haven’t been forced to watch it. Do you mind sharing what happens to you?

      • Kitt

        It isn’t too pretty, but fortunately for me it isn’t life-threatening. My throat swells up and closes to a point where it’s very difficult to breathe and impossible to speak, so I have to get to my EpiPen pretty fast. Then I have the non-life-threatening pleasure of hives and eczema all over my body and cystic acne all over my face until it’s totally out of my system, which takes about a week and a half. So I’m luckier than someone who would say, die from touching a peanut, but it’s absolutely miserable if I mess up so I’m done trusting it to people and places who don’t know what’s in their food.

        What happens to you with your sensitivity? Anything noticeable?

  • Zach

    We appreciate all the hard work you do to expose the truth about what we eat. As suggested in the Omnivore’s Dilemma, we need to be aware of where our food comes from, and this article demonstrates we can’t trust anyone to tell us truthfully. I’m disappointed that the United States government and health organizations continue to protect business instead of the consumer by practically endorsing this sort of practice. And we wonder why the rates of obesity and cancer are what they are.

    Chipotle used to be the only fast food I would ever consider eating, but not anymore. Sticking to home cooked meals using farmer’s market organics.

    • Thank you Zach – I appreciate the encouragement. I will definitely try Chipotle once they stop using GMO’s. I really believe that may be just around the corner – especially if California passes Prop 37. Let’s hope!

  • David

    Here again is another one sided slanted artical filled with assumptions and warped facts. The beauty of the internet, is it gives an audience to people to voice their positions regardless of how little digging or facts they have. The opportunity to present a balanced report was there, but was ignored because once again, the over lying fact is people will read crap like this only when it points to the world is crumbling. Are there areas of improvement for all these restaurants? Absolutely. Is your life in danger the next time you pass through a Chipolte set of front doors? Absolutely note. But giving a blanced report might not allow you the reader to stay interested. Frankly, if you present a balanced report you’d get more readers, and they might have more respect for the areas that these restaurants need to improve. However that would take more work, and we do not have time for that, as we have 1000′s of restaurants yet to belittle. I liken one sided articles like this to politics. Essentially you listen to the last idiot at the podium. Wait, let’s go to CNN and get the straight scoop on how the republicans are ruining the world. Hold on, lets go to Fox news and listen to how the democrates are killing all our senior citizens. Frankly I eat at both, the food is great and I will continue to do so. I will however stay away from Qdoba, those guys have terrible food.

    • Elizabeth

      What is the other side then, David? Can you explain how GMOs and ingredients that are the same as those found in antifreeze are beneficial for me?

      What makes me sick is that all the testing and approvals say that these ingredients are used in such small doses that they can’t/don’t/won’t cause adverse side effects, but the problem is they are in so many of our foods that I believe the average person eats enough of these things that they can build up and have a negative impact on our overall health.

      Do I think companies like Chipotle and Moe’s are trying to give consumers healthier options? Yes. Do I think consumers have a right to know exactly what they are eating? Yes. I think the comment from the woman with severe soy allergies has a valid point. She can’t trust that beef is just beef and that it doesn’t have some soy-based additive that will give her a reaction. So, do I think questioning these companies and pushing them to change is a good thing? Absolutely!

      Keep up the good work, Food Babe!

    • wow

      Your reply to this post has nothing to do with anything. If you want to complain on an article go on facebook. How do you know how many readers have read this article? Come on man!

  • Cate

    Food Babe is always such a downer. I feel so guilty after reading her posts. Reality bites I guess?!

    • April

      Yes, I agree…I feel like I can save Food Babe a lot of time on future articles…just don’t eat anywhere besides your own house. All restaurants are evil and will kill you. There, I did the work for her.

  • Thank you Food Babe and Lisa for all you do!! I really appreciate it!! However I wish this was written in a better tone it sounds like we are being horrible and crazy for choosing that food. Finally a lot of us can’t afford organic real food everything. I’m all for organic real food but paying 2-4 times as much isn’t in the budget..

  • I must be from a different planet or something. I thought that the fed, years ago, made a law that restaurants had to have nutritional information available on request… and then places like McDonalds started to put them on packaging just to appear like they were good companies. I guess this is really only for the nutrition label and not ingredients?

  • amy Mosca

    Great work lady. Thanks for the insights. Guess I won’t be advising the PTA to take kids on educational field trips to either of these spots in Charlotte. I think The Living Kitchen is on my radar. YUM!!!

  • Diana

    I posted on Facebook and they have given replies that I am ok with. https://www.facebook.com/chipotle/posts/398175690242680

  • Stacy

    Thank you so much for all the time you put in finding out what’s really in our “food”. If we have to eat out (in Charlotte) for lunch or dinner( i have two kids) on the go….what would you recommend? Thanks again!

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