Chipotle founder and CEO slams McDonald's for McNugget claims as he boasts about his 'clean' menu (CMG, MCD, PNRA)

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Chipotle's CEO and founder Steve Ells says chains like McDonald's and Panera Bread are misleading customers with "clean" food claims.

On Tuesday, the burrito chain announced that it was the first and only national restaurant brand with no added colors, flavors, or preservatives of any kind on the menu.

The news comes at a time when clean food has become an industry trend. Seemingly every fast-food chain in America has made a "clean" food announcement in recent months, from Taco Bell cutting artificial ingredients to McDonald's unveiling a "clean" McNugget.

Now, Ells is ready to set the record straight.

"[McDonald's] doesn't have a clean chicken nugget!" Ells told Business Insider. "Because they still have industrial ingredients... It's not something you buy at the farmer's market — 'oh yes, where's the natural flavor?'"

RELATED: Chipotle restaurants through the years:

21 PHOTOS
Chipotle restaurants through the years
See Gallery
Chipotle restaurants through the years
DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 9: Steve Ells, 32, owner of the Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant chain, in front of one of his stores at 32nd & Lowell Blvd. in Denver, Colorado on Monday, Feb. 9, 1998. (Photo by Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Exterior of the Chipotle restaurant on Wisconsin Ave. NW Washington, D.C. (Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
GLENVIEW, IL - DECEMBER 02: Activity is seen near the order-counter area inside a Chipotle restaurant December 2, 2005 in Glenview, Illinois. McDonald's Corp., owners of 92 percent of Chipotle, are preparing its Mexican-style eateries for an initial public offering. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - JANUARY 26: The Chipoltle Mexican Grill logo is painted on the door of one of the Chain's restaurants in the trendy Bucktown neighborhood January 26, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. McDonald's spin-off of the restaurant chain ended the day with the Initial Public Offering (IPO) closing at $44, double its opening price. It was the best opening day gain by a U.S.-based IPO in more than five years. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 26: Workers prepares meals at Chipotle Mexican Grill in West Bloomfield, Michigan on Thursday, January 26, 2006. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.'s shares more than doubled on the first day of trading after McDonald's Corp. took the fast-growing chain public. (Photo by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 26: The original Chipotle restaurant at 1644 E. Evans Ave in Denver, shown here on Jauary 26, 2006. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
A Chipotle burrito in it's signature aluminum wrap on Friday, February 12, 2010. Burrito was that the original location on E. Evans Ave. Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post (Photo By Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Chipotle burritos at the original location on E. Evans Ave. Bryan Sawyer who eats about 3 times a week at the Chipotle eats a steak black bean burrito on Friday, February 12, 2010. Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post (Photo By Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer: -- Kyle Braley stirs a tomatillo green chili salsa at Chipotle Mexican Grill in South Portland on Monday, December 13, 2010. The popular restaurant chain, which serves naturally-raised beef, chicken and pork, has its grand opening today. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
A pedestrian walks into a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. location in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. Chipotle, the best- performing restaurant stock in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index last year, is expected to release earnings data on Oct. 18. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. logo is displayed on a paper bag at a location in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. Chipotle, the best- performing restaurant stock in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index last year, is expected to release earnings data on Oct. 18. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. employees prepare food at a location in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. Chipotle, the best- performing restaurant stock in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index last year, is expected to release earnings data on Oct. 18. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A steak burrito is arranged for a photograph with a drink and bags of chips at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in Hollywood, California, U.S., on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is scheduled to release earnings data on July 18. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A employee sprinkles cheese on a burrito at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. restaurant in Hollywood, California, U.S., on Tuesday, July 16, 2013. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is scheduled to release earnings data on July 18. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Employees prepare lunch orders at a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant at Madison Square Park in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is expected to release earnings figures on Jan. 30. Photographer: Craig Warga/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Employees prepare lunch orders at a Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant at Madison Square Park in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. is expected to release earnings figures on Jan. 30. Photographer: Craig Warga/Bloomberg via Getty Images
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 05: A Chipotle restaurant is seen on March 5, 2014 in Miami, Florida. The Mexican fast food chain is reported to have tossed around the idea that it would temporarily suspend sales of guacamole due to an increase in food costs. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A Chipotle eatery in the Financial District of Manhattan NYC viewed from the outside looking in shows the interior design as well as people eating & talking, & also reflects the urban building from across the street in the upper left corner of the window
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2015/10/18: Restaurants in USA: Chipotle Mexican Grill Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. is a chain of restaurants in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and France, specializing in Mission burritos and tacos. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- FEBRUARY 8: A sign sits in the window of a Chipotle restaurant on Broadway in Lower Manhattan telling customers the restaurant is closed until 3 p.m. on February 8, 2016 in New York City. The Mexican food chain is closing stores for lunch nationwide for a meeting on food safety following a number of E. coli outbreaks. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Ells argues that most chains — including McDonald's — ditching artificial flavors simply swapped the offending ingredients for "natural flavors" that serve the same purpose. Most of these natural flavors are created in a lab. The only difference is that they use extracts from natural instead of artificial ingredients.

McDonald's spokesperson Becca Hary told Business Insider that the company is continuing to "raise the bar" in how food is prepared, sourced, and served.

"Removing high fructose corn syrup from our buns, serving chicken free of antibiotics important to human medicine, and removing artificial preservatives from our Chicken McNuggets are clear and tangible quality improvements of which we are proud," Hary said.

McDonald's

It's not only traditional fast-food chains that continue to use natural flavors. Panera Bread, for example, announced in January that it had completed its mission to make its menu 100% "clean," but continues to use natural flavors in its food.

"The biggest difference [between Chipotle and Panera] is we don't have any of these industrial additives of any kind," said Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle's chief marketing officer.

"If you look at other fast-food menus, they might have been successful in removing things that are labeled artificial flavors or artificial colors, or even artificial preservatives, but they have to end up replacing them with something else which performs essentially the same function," Crumpacker continued. "So, these menus are still littered with colors, flavors, preservatives, dough conditioners, gums, emulsifiers, humectants. All those things are still on the menu —"

"Kate, did he just say humectants?" Ells interrupted. "Do you know what a humectants is?"

I did not — proving Ells' point. Ells doesn't want anything on Chipotle's menu that customers can't immediately identify as something they could pick up themselves as the supermarket (Humectants are ingredients added to maintain foods' textures.)

Panera Bread told Business Insider that it is currently working to use more "whole" ingredients instead of natural flavors. However, since the chain has a more extensive menu than Chipotle, progress takes time.

"We're continuing to strive to use ingredients that you would find in your own home pantry," Sara Burnett, Panera's director of wellness and food policy, told Business Insider. "We're continuing to move on that journey. And, natural flavors are one of those ingredients that, when we have a good alternative, we prefer to use a whole ingredient."

The final step in Chipotle's long-term mission to ditch additives and preservatives was adjusting the recipe for the tortilla, a mission the company has been working on for two years. The new flour tortillas contain just five ingredients, while the corn tortillas (used to make chips) are made with only corn masa flour and water.

NOW WATCH: REPORT: Some chicken sandwiches from popular fast food chains may not be what you think they are

See Also:

SEE ALSO: There's a Chipotle index that reveals which cities pay the most for burritos

Read Full Story

Want more news like this?

Sign up for Finance Report by AOL and get everything from business news to personal finance tips delivered directly to your inbox daily!

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners

If You Find One Of These In Your Yard, Don't Touch It - And Try Not To Panic If You Find One Of These In Your Yard, Don't Touch It - And Try Not To Panic
Don't Get Too Close To a Newborn Giraffe Unless You Want to Get Kicked in the Nuts Don't Get Too Close To a Newborn Giraffe Unless You Want to Get Kicked in the Nuts
Cops Catch Up To A Suspicious Speeding Vehicle - And Make An Appalling Discovery Inside Cops Catch Up To A Suspicious Speeding Vehicle - And Make An Appalling Discovery Inside