If the thought of chowing down on a sausage burrito with just 300 calories seems like a dream come true, you're not alone.
Three hungry men apparently thought they had entered burrito heaven last month when they each spotted a 300-calorie chorizo burrito on the menus of different Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in the Los Angeles area.
But what seemed like a calorie-counter's dream became a belt-busting nightmare, according to their lawyer.
After consuming the $7.15 burrito at a Brentwood Chipotle, David Desmond reported feeling "excessively full" and that the calorie count had to be over 300. The other two diners -- Edward Gurevich and Young Hoon Kim -- also questioned the calorie claim after ordering burritos in Toluca Lake and Century City.
The men have now filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleging Chipotle misled its patrons by providing false nutritional information.
"What we are saying is: If they are going to put up nutritional information, it's got to be true," said Boris Treyzon, an attorney representing the men in the class-action suit.
Although the lawsuit claims the 300-calorie claim is a lie, it does not provide an alternate calorie count for the burrito. According to the nutrition calculator on Chipotle's website, a burrito with chorizo, white rice, black beans, tomato salsa and cheese would pack 1,055 calories. A serving of chorizo alone is 300 calories, according to the website.
The lawsuit contends that "consumers are lulled into a false belief that the items are healthier than they really are, and thereby encouraging repeat patronage by consumers who are concerned about the nutritional values of the food they eat."
But Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said the restaurant chain works "hard to maintain transparency around what is in our food, including the nutritional content."
"In presenting information regarding the calories in our chorizo, it was never our intent to create any confusion," he said.
Arnold declined to comment on the men's suit, saying "a lawsuit is nothing more than allegations and is proof of nothing."
The lawsuit comes after the Denver-based chain suffered a string of misfortune over the past year.
Sales slipped after food-borne illnesses linked to Chipotle restaurants sickened customers. As result of the E. coli and norovirus outbreaks, the chain closed all of its 1,971 U.S. restaurants in February and offered customers coupons for a free burrito.
After the outbreaks, the chain said it planned to spend up to a $10 million to help its suppliers produce safer meat and vegetables.
Branding itself as a chain that offers "Food With Integrity," Chipotle says it works with local farmers to provide meals free of any genetically modified ingredients.
In California, a menu labeling law requires chain restaurants to disclose nutritional content information when an item is sold or before an order is placed, or disclose calories on an indoor menu next to the food item on a board.
If nutritional charts weren't confusing enough, the Food and Drug Administration allows up to a 20% margin of error on food labels.
Ilana Muhlstein, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Beverly Hills, said that even her clients who have been educated about nutritional value could have been tripped up by the 300-calorie chorizo burrito.
"It is not their fault," she said. "It is incredibly, incredibly deceiving."
Chipotle, she said, should have known better, especially since they probably employ dieticians researching nutritional information.
Muhlstein's advice to consumers: "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."
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