The high-calorie burrito chain Chipotle likes to pretend to be something it isn’t to consumers. Chipotle pretends to be all about local food when in fact it ships in beef from Australia and pork from the UK. Chipotle pretends to be anti-GMO but has no problem with GMOs being used to sweeten its soda or fed to animals used for food. Chipotle pretends to be “humane” but bans farmers from giving their livestock antibiotics as a means of preventing illness.
Now, Chipotle has launched a PR campaign called “Friend or Faux?,” implying that other restaurants that use safe but hard-to-pronounce ingredients are worse than the holier-than-thou Chipotle. Keep in mind Chipotle uses some of these hard-to-pronounce ingredients, such as propionic acid and benzoic acid, so clearly the chain doesn’t honestly think they’re bad. In fact, Chipotle says of the latter on its website, “Benzoic Acid is used to preserve the freshness of tortillas by inhibiting the growth of mold, yeast, and some bacteria,” and separately the FDA considers this preservative Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
Sounds great to us! So what’s the problem?
What’s going on is that Chipotle is taking advantage of Americans’ discomfort with eating “chemicals.” Never mind that everything from dihydrogen monoxide (water) to ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) has a chemical name and formula. Chipotle is just trying to find a new way to make a 1,500-calorie burrito seem healthier. Facts be damned.
Thanks to the USDA’s nutrient database and FlavorNet, we have an idea of just what kinds of chemicals are loaded into Chipotle burritos. It’s a lot. And we can’t pronounce most of them. But if Chipotle wants to open that door, then we’re happy to tell people that Chipotle’s burritos are full of chemicals. (Click to enlarge.)