The XX Factor

Los Angeles Residents Sue Chipotle Because Their Burritos Contained More Than 300 Calories

A Chipotle restaurant sign is seen in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2015.

Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images

Three Chipotle customers in Los Angeles are filing a class-action lawsuit against the Mexican fast-casual chain for misrepresenting the amount of calories in its new chorizo burrito. An in-store sign advertising the new spicy sausage filling showed a picture of a chorizo burrito and a calorie count of 300. In fact, the chorizo alone contains 300 calories. Once you add a tortilla, white rice, black beans, tomato salsa, and cheese, as the sign suggests, you get a meal that clocks in at around 1,050 calories, according to Chipotle’s online nutrition calculator.

Three separate California customers felt not just misled by the sign but also wronged by it. One of them bought a chorizo burrito because of the sign, but afterward “felt excessively full and realized that the burrito couldn’t have been just 300 calories,” according to the complaint reviewed by My News L.A. Even though the chorizo filling has been available only since October, the class-action lawsuit would cover “all people who bought food at Chipotle for four years leading up to the filing of the complaint,” because the plaintiffs claim the chorizo signs fall into a pattern of misleading nutritional information promulgated by Chipotle.

I hope the plaintiffs have more evidence behind that claim, because it’s easy to see how Chipotle’s misleading chorizo signs might have resulted from human error rather than malice. Perhaps more relevant to the damages sought by the plaintiffs, it is hard to see how eating 1,050 calories when you believe you’re eating 300 calories does any lasting harm to a person, absent some medical condition that requires strict control of one’s caloric intake. You know what you can do when you’ve accidentally eaten too much? Not eat for a while. Maybe take a walk or do some gentle stretching to promote digestion. Believe it or not, within a few hours you won’t feel “excessively full” anymore, and a few hours after that you’ll even be ready to eat some more. The miracle of the human metabolism!

Better yet, stop paying attention to calorie counts at all and just pay attention to your body’s hunger and satiety signals. It can feel really hard to listen to your body when you are used to mistrusting it—take it from someone who used to count calories obsessively and binge eat—but with practice and self-forgiveness, it becomes easy and enjoyable. When you obey internal rather than external cues, you begin to notice how different foods affect you, and as a result you make better choices according to what your body needs at a given moment. If you’re extremely hungry, you might eat a whole chorizo burrito; if you’re less hungry, you might eat half a burrito, or opt for a bowl instead, or go to Hale and Hearty Soups instead of Chipotle. When you’re used to eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full, the prospect of getting a calorie count wrong feels almost unbearably trivial.

Consumers deserve accurate information about the products they’re considering, and many companies deserve to be sanctioned for misrepresenting the ingredients and nutritional value of the foods they sell. But a single misleading sign does not a fraud make. Call me crazy, but if I saw a sign implying that a Chipotle burrito contained fewer calories than it actually did, my first and only reaction would be to tell the manager, “That sign’s wrong. You should probably change it.”