Chipotle Mexican Grill will pay $6.5 million to settle a class-action suit that accused the fast casual of falsely advertising that its food is free of genetically modified ingredients, according to documents filed this week in California federal court.
The settlement, in which Chipotle admits no wrongdoing, ends three years of litigation against the 2,500-unit chain. It entitles anyone who purchased food from any Chipotle unit in the U.S. from April 27, 2015, until June 30, 2016, to $2 back on each qualifying purchase, with the ability to claim up to five qualifying purchases without documentation. Those with proof of purchase can be awarded up to $20 for 10 qualifying purchases during the period, with a $30 per-household cap, according to the settlement.
A Chipotle representative did not immediately respond to RB’s request to comment on the settlement.
In 2015, Chipotle became the first major restaurant chain to announce it would start serving food entirely free of genetically engineered ingredients, after becoming the first national restaurant company to disclose GMO ingredients two years earlier. At the time, Chipotle said most of the genetically modified ingredients in its food were found in soybean oil and tortillas.
But in the class-action suit, the plaintiffs allege that Chipotle’s food products “may have been sourced from livestock that consumed GMO animal feed.”
The $6.5 million settlement could serve as a point of caution for other brands as they consider their marketing messages.
For its part, Chipotle said its GMO-related marketing campaigns are “true, are substantiated through science, and are therefore not deceptive or misleading as a matter of law,” according to the court filing.
Earlier this week, Chipotle became the first restaurant chain to be targeted under New York City’s Fair Workweek Law, with the city accusing the chain of violating its predictable scheduling rule.