Fast-casual food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced it has removed all ingredients made with genetically modified organisms from its menu, making good on a two-year-old promise. It's the latest example of the food industry stripping away ingredients, some more questionable than others, as consumers demand a say in what's in their dinner.
There is no scientific evidence that GMOs pose a risk to health, as Chipotle founder and co-CEO Steve Ells readily acknowledges. "I don't think this is about GMOs being harmful or not being harmful to your health," Ells tells The Salt. "It's a bigger picture. It's really part of our food with integrity journey."
After Chipotle committed to ditching GMOs in 2013, its corn and flour tortillas were among the hardest items to revamp. But they're now GMO-free, thanks to Chipotle's collaborations with suppliers to plant non-GMO corn varieties. The soybean oil in the chips and taco shells, which was GMO, has also been replaced with non-GMO sunflower oil.
But the journey isn't done: Chipotle still uses meat from animals that may feed on GMO corn or soybeans. Ells says he wants to change that, but it is likely to take several years.
Michael Moss, author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, applauds Chipotle's move to remove GMOs from its menu. "I'm ambivalent about GMOs, personally," Moss tells The Salt, "but I think Chipotle, with this move, is once again showing how fast it's positioning the company to respond to its customers' concerns about food."
While Chipotle's announcement isn't so surprising, given its ethos of prizing fresh, high-quality ingredients, it's also part of a broader trend. These days, product reformulations, revamped recipes and changes in sourcing are increasingly becoming the price of doing business in the food industry.