Chipotle has officially eliminated all artificial ingredients from its menu

After the food-safety scandals in 2015 that affected at least 491 people and the steady market decline that came with that, Chipotle Mexican Grill is getting a fresh start with a clean menu makeover in the hope to revive sales.

In an attempt to save the brand’s reputation, Chipotle’s founder and CEO Steve Ells announced a food safety rollout, favoring high-quality ingredients. For the past two years, the burrito chain has been working hard to eliminate all additives and preservatives from its menu and has now finally been able to achieve that goal.

“The way to grow the business is not through limited-time offers, extra value meals or menu proliferation with all kinds of new items,” said Steve Ells in an interview. “For us, instead it’s about improving the basic, wholesome ingredients.” (RELATED: See for more coverage of the fast food industry.)

Serving better quality ingredients and preservative-free food

In a press release, Steve Ells explained that they have always used high-quality ingredients and prepared them using classic cooking techniques. He added that unlike other fast food chains, they never resorted to using added colors or flavors because they interfere with the taste of the food. Nonetheless, the commercially available tortillas they used were filled with dough conditioners and preservatives.

Therefore, Steve Ells has been on a mission to make a better tasting tortilla, made the way you would make them at home. In collaboration with wheat breeder Stephen Jones from the Bread Lab, Steve Ells finally managed to make a delicious, additive-free wrap. The flour tortillas now contain just five ingredients — flour, water, oil, salt, and yeast — while the corn tortillas have just two — corn masa and water.

Chipotle has whittled down the entire menu to just 51 different, wholesome ingredients including fresh organic produce and hormone-free meat. According to the company, the only preservatives left on the menu are lemon and lime juice. Things like distilled monoglycerides, sodium metabisulfite, propionic acid, and 13 other hard-to-pronounce ingredients are no longer to be found in their ingredients list.

As consumers turn away from processed foods, restaurants like Panera Bread, McDonald’s, and Subway have also been on a mission to sell antibiotic- and additive-free foods to lure more health-conscious customers to their shops. Chipotle, however, is the first fast food chain to completely rid its food ingredients list of all additives, even the so-called “natural” versions of artificial additives.

The distinction between artificial and natural additives can be very confusing and misleading. While many people think that they are getting a 100 percent natural product, these “natural” additives are also made in the lab. Take French fries for example. Among other questionable ingredients, they often contain “natural beef flavor.” Even though the flavoring does not include meat, the “natural” term can be used since the chemical is derived from plant material.

In a press release, Mark Crumpacker, Chief Marketing and Development Officer for Chipotle, said that rather than making the switch from artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives to “natural” alternatives, food chains should be asking themselves why their meals need all these extra ingredients in the first place.

If you prepare meals using fresh, wholesome ingredients and classic cooking techniques, the food will taste delicious without the need for any of these industrial flavor enhancers. That’s why Chipotle’s food is so delicious, Mark Crumpacker added. (RELATED: Learn more about clean, wholesome foods at

While Chipotle’s changes are a good start toward improving the nutritional values of fast food, the company’s statement that it has eliminated all added colors, flavors, and preservatives should be taken with a grain of salt. The rule only applies to Chipotle-branded restaurants in the United States and the ingredients used in food preparations. Thus exempting all beverages sold at Chipotle from the no-additive promise.


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