Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Chipotle arrived in Columbus about the time that I moved back home to Mercer County, so my dining experience there is limited to one meal. Ironic that a large, fast food chain, with over 1,900 locations nationwide, focused its marketing on criticizing large scale farming, especially since many competitors with Mexican cuisine are small, family-owned businesses. McDonald’s was an investor in Chipotle for years (1998-2006) and still shares some distribution centers and processing facilities.All I remember about my lone trip to the place was indigestion, not from the food, but the ads and half-truth commentary present throughout the establishment. And that was an early iteration of the place. There was a “new-agey” atmosphere and slogans like “we source from farms rather than factories” and “improving the world one burrito at a time.” (I am paraphrasing and wondering what that even means.) Their marketing scheme was branding of “food with integrity.” They advocated unprocessed food, ingredients free of antibiotics (all food is per current USDA regulation), ingredients free of GMOs, organic items and locally grown. These options are fine; their attacks on modern agriculture and farmers were not. As one food scientist opined, “If sleaze were infectious, Chipotle would be causing a pandemic.”Their “holier than thou” approach worked for a while. The last year or so, however, has not been so kind. Hindus and Buddhists call it karma. Galations 6:7 states, “A man reaps what he sows.” (New International Version.) Folks around here say “what goes around comes around.” It is a universal truth that intent and actions influence the future of the one who intends and acts. I don’t have a problem with the “new agey” approach, just the lies about modern farming and Chipotle’s threat to public health.In the last year, there have been numerous incidents of Chipotle customers sick because of e-coli, salmonella and norovirus throughout the country. One of the norovirus problems happened in Boston and struck over 140 Boston College students, including one-half of the men’s basketball team. There have been over 500 people with diagnosed food safety illness from Chipotle since July 2015; there are likely many more who were ill from contaminated Chipotle food, but did not seek medical attention and are not included in these numbers. More alarming, with the e-coli outbreak of Dec. 21 that involved five people in two states, Chipotle is still unsure which ingredient caused the problem. If you cannot identify the issue, how can you correct it?It’s perfectly acceptable to produce or prefer organic food. It’s a big country, and there is room for all opinions. That’s what makes the United States special. What I do not appreciate are the lies Chipotle told about organic, never mind not all of their ingredients even were. Organic is an option, but it is not always superior or safer or pesticide-free. For instance, organic products are four to eight times more likely to be recalled over safety concerns than conventionally grown crops. Organic production methods often include a preference of manure to synthetic fertilizer on crops. Unless there are proper food handling and safety systems, this raises the risk of disease. As one food safety expert asked, “would you agree to open heart surgery if the anesthesiologist planed to use ‘traditional methods’ instead of state-of-the art technology?”Another food scientist summarized Chipotle’s problem as a marketing-driven propensity to exploit current food fads, even if it diverts the corporate focus way from what should always be “job one” — safety. So instead of spreading lies about GMOs, Chipotle should have dedicated themselves to quality control and employee training, including hand washing, proper handling of produce, proper temperature for food preparation and sending workers home who show up ill. Turns out the ingredients that are the highest risk to public safety are those eaten raw — tomatoes, lettuce and cilantro. Chipotle focused on marketing fresh food, which is fine. The company just needed to spend as much effort monitoring the safe distribution of fresh products and training workers in their proper handling, preparation and serving.Chipotle’s lawyers have their work cut out for them. They are facing multiple lawsuits from the customers who became ill, including at least one class action. As a result of the litigation, there is a website, chubbychipotle.com, that attacks Chipotle for passing off a fast food menu stacked with high-calorie, sodium-rich foods as higher quality and more nutritious because the meals were made with locally grown and GMO-free ingredients. For anyone who has ever been offended by Chipotle’s ads, this website is worth checking out.Although their stock value is down, as well as their sales and revenue, Chipotle is planning on opening another 220 to 235 new restaurants this year. Their advertising department has work to do, though. Trust is not the kind of problem you can market your way out of.