Chipotle has been hit by a national campaign featuring a grossly overweight young man and attacking the chain for high fat food. The ad tells readers that by eating two “all natural” Chipotle burritos a week, consumers could gain 40 pounds in a year. What is most notable however is the source for the campaign: an industry lobbyist named Richard Berman who appears miffed by the restaurant’s support of GMO-free, antibiotic-free food.
Berman is the head of public relations firm Berman & Co. and created the Center for Consumer Freedom to criticize efforts to limit high fat or unhealthy foods. The campaign includes the website Chubbychipotle.com. The CCF was formed in 1996 and reportedly criticizes such organizations as the Humane Society of the United States, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
According to the Washington Post, the CCF lobbies on behalf of large food companies. The website states “”A growing cabal of activists has meddled in Americans’ lives in recent years . . . They include self-anointed ‘food police,’ health campaigners, trial lawyers, personal-finance do-gooders, animal-rights misanthropes, and meddling bureaucrats.”
That is not exactly what readers would assume to be the intent or message of this ad. Indeed, it appears that Berman lobbies on behalf of companies selling high-fat products. His opposition appears not to be the health impact of the food but the fact that Chipotle is supporting a national effort against GMO and non-organic food. Readers are equally left in the dark that “The Center for Consumer Freedom is supported by restaurants, food companies and thousands of individual consumers.” That information is available on its website.
Since the ad campaign has not been accused of false statements, a product disparagement case would likely not be successful. The ad does appear to over-simplify the issue and such weight gain will vary widely (hence the use of “may” in the critical line).
I am also a critic of CCF targets like Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s laws on sugary drinks. Moreover, the premise of the ad that Chipotle serves high caloric, high fat meals would seem unassailable. However, the campaign is less than honest given the opposition of CCF to limits on high-fat food and the financial support from competitors of Chipotle.
What do you think?