Chipotle Starts Labeling GMO Ingredients On Website Menu

06/18/2013 01:57 pm ET | Updated Jun 19, 2013

Many consumers think of Chipotle Mexican Grill as a healthy place to eat -- or at least a healthy alternative to other fast-food chains. The brand often promotes its commitment to naturally raised meats and local produce in a bid to distance itself from places like Taco Bell and McDonald's.

But it turns out that even at Chipotle, you can't escape genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which were developed in the '90s to increase farmers' productivity but have been dogged by criticism from some health advocates and environmentalists. The chain recently became the first fast-food chain to label the ingredients it uses that contain GMOs; the list is deep in its website, not in stores. And 12 of the 24 ingredients listed on the site are affixed with a red "G" -- indicating the presence of GMOs.

The GMO-containing ingredients include all tortillas and rice, plus all of the varieties of meat, save pork carnitas. That means that the only surefire way to avoid GMOs at Chipotle would be to get a salad with lettuce, beans and, if you're a diehard carnivore, pork. But what's a visit to Chipotle without a burrito?

Chipotle's executives agree that the ubiquity of GMOs on the menu is disheartening. The company has historically campaigned for legislation that would mandate the labeling of GMOs in all venues. A note on the site's ingredient page says that the chain is trying to eliminate GMOs, but that it's impossible to find reliable sources of corn and soybeans that don't include them.

Moreover, the chain is one of very few fessing up to its use of the controversial ingredient, even if only online. Among major companies, only Whole Foods, and Ben and Jerry's have announced similar plans to label GMO ingredients in advance of any legal requirement to do so.

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