Is Chipotle a(n Ethical) Lesson in Opportunity Cost?

business_ethics_highlights_2Chipotle’s anti-GMO policies may win the burrito chain some customers, but those same policies take on a different ethical complexion when they are pursued to the apparent neglect of protecting customers from scientifically established – and potentially deadly – food-borne illnesses. Catering to customers’ peculiar beliefs about what makes food healthy or environmentally-friendly is at least innocuous when it is done in a supererogatory (“above and beyond the call of duty”) way. However, when catering to those beliefs is being pursued at the cost of meeting their bedrock duties to customers (in this case, meeting minimal standards of safety in food handling and preparation), Chipotle is rightfully being called out. Avoiding GMOs is ethical window dressing compared to avoiding E. coli and salmonella poisoning. If Chipotle can only do one (and, so far, Chipotle’s demonstrated that they can’t do both), focusing on safe food handling and preparation, and not on anti-GMO sourcing, is the better (and more ethical) option. >>>

LINK: Was Chipotle too busy avoiding the fake dangers of GMOs to focus on actual food safety? (by Timothy B. Lee for Vox)

The news about Chipotle’s food safety record keeps getting worse. In recent months, people in California, Washington state, Minnesota, and elsewhere have gotten sick after eating at Chipotle. Earlier this week, we learned that more than 100 Boston College students had become ill after eating at a local Chipotle. Then on Thursday, health officials closed a Chipotle location in Seattle due to repeated health code violations.

So rather than pandering to groundless fears about GMO safety, Chipotle would have served its customers better by focusing on the very real dangers of food tainted with E. coli, norovirus, or salmonella. Theoretically, it should be able to do both, of course, but like any organization Chipotle has limited resources. A dollar it spends guarding against the overblown threat of GMOs is a dollar it can’t devote to preventing actual health problems.

What do you think?

RELATED: Chris MacDonald’s discussion of CSR as a smokescreen in his Business Ethics Blog post, “Down With CSR! Up With Business Ethics!”

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  1. Pingback: Top 10 Business Ethics Stories of 2015 | The Business Ethics Blog

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