When I first heard about Chipotle, I was tickled pink! A rather food conscious chain that was working a little harder to bring America a better quality of fast food. Plus, they were pretty allergen-aware which, in my book, is a huge plus.
I occasionally have enjoyed a meal there consisting of their burrito bowls to avoid getting glutened since their tortilla offerings are mainly wheat.
About a year and a half ago, I began to get suspicious that there was something in my food that was contaminated. Even though everything I picked for my meal is gluten-free according to their list, I’d leave there very phlegmy and stuffed up. (If you must know, I would order a chicken burrito bowl with mild salsa, lettuce and guacamole.)
Something was clearly up. So I started asking questions every time I went in to eat and was assured that what I picked was gluten-free. I even double-checked their website for allergen info. Finally I did the only possible thing left to do – watch them make my dish.
Here’s why you’re probably getting glutened at Chipotle…
1. Dirty gloves
On any given busy day, I’ve never see the employees change their gloves for each order. That would probably be rather wasteful assuming you’ve not got any food issues that you’re aware of. However, those gloves that touched the wheat burrito wraps are all over my burrito bowl container.
Then those gloves that touched the wheat burrito are dunked in the cheese bin, contaminating all the cheese.
Though I will preach to you to constantly find ways to add in greens whenever and wherever humanly possible, this is one spot in Chipotle that those with gluten AND dairy issues must avoid. Those gloves I’ve mentioned that have been touching the cheese and wheat burritos are then dunked into the lettuce bin.
After seeing the issue with the lettuce and cheese, I wrote an email describing the food prep issue and suggested that the lettuce be served with tongs. Though Chipotle customer service appreciated my feedback, they said that using a utensil would harm the lettuce which is why they would always opt to grab it with a glove.
Design matters- especially when you want to protect certain items from touching something else like gluten. That’s a reasonable problem when utensil holders sit facing up toward the ceiling recessed into a surface on to which people will inevitably place their food.
As I looked for a fork one night not long ago, I noticed lots of food particles, nuggets of cheese and other stuff that had fallen into theses metal canisters. Great- that’s probably been touching my fork that will go in my mouth.
The Bottom Line
Eating out does have a pretty big learning curve… this I admit. That’s why I wanted to share my experience with you as a reminder to constantly be vigilant about your choices.
I want to be clear- I’m not suggesting we all boycott Chipotle since they do not claim to be a dedicated gluten-free facility. They’re a great establishment that clearly is trying to be more aware of some key food issues.
However, I would not ever recommend someone with Celiac Disease go eat there. The risk of contamination is too high. While someone with lower levels of an intolerance might be fine, you still need to be careful about what you choose to eat there.
It has come to my attention that you can request to have your meal made from completely fresh ingredients with fresh gloves in the back, but I’ve never been there during a busy time to see how that works out. I’d also recommend bringing your own utensils or rinsing off the ones they provide before eating.