The Chipotle fast casual Mexican restaurant chain has enjoyed newfound success in recent months thanks in large part to its commitment to natural, made-from-scratch, non-GMO menu.
But the company’s decision to tout its non-GMO status has been met with heavy scrutiny as well, culminating in the filing of a massive lawsuit against the chain over the meaning of its claims.
While Chipotle serves a menu that is as free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as any other chain of its size, the company’s hard work in this area has earned it what will essentially amount to a hefty fine, to the tune of several millions of dollars after it was announced by the National Law Review publication that Chipotle has reached a settlement on the eve of the pending lawsuit.
Chipotle Settles for $6.5 Million; Customers Eligible for Rebates
The class action lawsuit, filed against Chipotle in the “Food Court” (Northern District of California), in connection with the company’s advertising pledge to only serve non-GMO foods, took aim at the company over its serving of meat and dairy products that contain ingredients from animals that may have consumed genetically modified feed.
Most animal feed in the United States still comes from GMOs, as over 90% of the corn and soybeans grown is genetically modified.
The question was simple: Could reasonable customers be deceived by such advertising?
A little less than a week ago on September 11, just before yesterday’s scheduled trial date, the plaintiffs asked the court to approve a deal in which Chipotle agreed to pay $6.5 million to settle the false advertising claims.
Chipotle has since discontinued its non-GMO advertising claims, and will be forced to pay handsomely for a campaign that it believed was bringing attention to an important and long-concealed issue that was not adequately discussed as part of the everyday civil discourse in the United States.
Consumers Could Get Refunds from Chipotle of Up to $20
Class members of the lawsuit include anyone who purchased meals from Chipotle, the Law Review article said.
Those who bought from Chipotle will be allowed to receive refunds of $2 per meal up to 5 meals without documentation and up to 10 meals with documentation, the article said, for anyone who ate at the chain from April 27, 2015 to June 30, 2016. Updates to the settlement will be posted on this website in the near future, for anyone who wishes to make a claim.
Whether or not it is worth it to hit the bottom line of a company that tried to do the right thing in a country where GMOs are the norm remains to be seen, but at the end of the day that decision will come down to the individual consumer.
Chipotle, meanwhile, saw its stocks rise this week after announcing the addition of new carne asada steak to its menu.
Thanks for reading! This article was first published on September 17, 2019 and updated on October 21, 2019.