Judge allows Chipotle GMO lawsuit to go forward

By Amy R. Connolly  |  April 22, 2016 at 7:26 AM
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MIAMI, April 22 (UPI) -- A lawsuit accusing Chipotle Mexican Grill of using food with genetically modified ingredients can move forward, a federal judge ruled.

The case, which is seeking class-action status, says the Denver-based company misled customers with claims its food was GMO-free. The suit alleges Chipotle's dairy product and meats come from animals that consume genetically modified food. A federal judge in Miami rejected the company's motion to dismiss. The case is scheduled to go to trial in November. Chipotle said there are no merits to the allegations.

The plaintiff, Leslie Reilly of Florida, said "she paid a premium price for Chipotle's food only because she believed it did not contain GMOs." She said the company "purposefully misrepresented and continues to purposefully misrepresent to consumers that its food products contain only non-GMO ingredients." She also said the company engaged in unfair and deceptive marketing practices by advertising its food contained only non-GMO ingredients.

"Based on her understanding of GMO products, Ms. Reilly interpreted Chipotle's advertisements to mean that its animals were not raised on GMO feed," U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke said in her ruling. "Chipotle, on the other hand, does not classify meat and dairy products sourced from animals who consumed GMO feed as GMO products."

In 2015, the company said it was the first major restaurant chain to remove GMO ingredients from its foods in response to suggestions GMOs cause numerous health problems. The Food and Drug Administration has approved several GMO crops for human consumption.

Chipotle, with some 1,900 restaurants nationwide, is still struggling to come back after a string of E.coli and norovirus outbreaks in 2015. The company's stock has fallen dramatically in the past 12 months and sales were down about 26 percent in February.

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