Oh, Chipotle. In 2015 and early 2016, the Colorado-based restaurant chain made headlines for serving up several food-borne illness outbreaks that dramatically emptied its customer’s gastrointestinal tracts. Now, the chain is making headlines for dramatically filling customers up.
In a lawsuit (PDF), filed November 16 in the Superior Court of Los Angeles, three nutrition-conscious patrons claim they were tricked into eating high-calorie Chorizo burritos after seeing Chipotle advertisements that suggested the swaddled meals were merely 300 calories.
One plaintiff, David Desmond, realized he had been duped when he felt “excessively full” after eating the burrito, according to the lawsuit. Along with the other two plaintiffs, Edward Gurevich and Young Hoon Kim, Desmond is seeking unspecified damages and a class action-status for the complaint.
Their suit stems from one sign in particular, seen independently by the plaintiffs in Chipotle restaurants around Los Angeles. The advertisement shows a picture of a brimming burrito and says: “CHORIZO BURRITO: Try our new deliciously seasoned, perfectly grilled spicy chicken and pork sausage in a burrito with white rice, black beans, fresh tomato salsa, and sprinkle of cheese.” The bottom of the sign reads “300 Calories.”
The trio claim they understood the sign to mean that the whole burrito was 300 calories, given the picture and the detailed description. However, according to Chipotle’s own nutrition information, a single serving of the chorizo alone is 300 calories.
When it’s wrapped into a burrito with all the fixings listed on the sign, the total calorie count comes out to 1,055—more than half of a standard 2,000 calorie per day diet.
The plaintiffs say the signage amounts to an “unfair, unlawful and/or fraudulent and unconscionable practice of grossly misrepresenting the nutrition values of its food products,” which breaks local health and safety codes, plus business codes.
In addition, the three claim that because Chipotle has marketed their Mexican Grill restaurants as serving “food with integrity,” customers are “lulled into a false belief that the items they are eating are healthier than they are, and thereby encouraging repeat patronage…”
In a statement to Ars, Chipotle’s communications director, Chris Arnold, said:
As a matter of policy, we do not discuss details surrounding pending legal action. I’d note, however, that a lawsuit is nothing more than allegation and is proof of nothing. We work very hard to maintain transparency in terms of what is in our food, and that includes our practices for disclosure of nutrition information.