Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Taco Bell Beef in Court

Taco Bell Beef story is not on the top of the Google searches list, but it reached the first position in popularity at Yahoo. So, what is the story?

According to the suit filed by the Alabama law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, Taco Bell is using a meat mixture that contains binders and extenders, and does not meet the minimum requirements set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be labeled as "beef.” Attorney Dee Miles said the meat mixture contained just 35 percent beef, with the remaining 65 percent containing water, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent and modified corn starch.

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Here’s the actual ingredient list on the side of the shipping containers labeled “Taco Meat Filling".
Beef, water, isolated oat product, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, oats (wheat), soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin (a polysaccharide that is absorbed as glucose), soybean oil (anti-dusting agent), garlic powder, autolyzed yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder, silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent), natural flavors, yeast, modified corn starch, natural smoke flavor, salt, sodium phosphate, less than 2% of beef broth, potassium phosphate, and potassium lactate.
And here is the list of Seasoned Ground Beef ingredients from Taco Bell website:
Beef, Water, Seasoning [Isolated Oat Product, Salt, Chili Pepper, Onion Powder, Tomato Powder, Oats (Wheat), Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Spices, Maltodextrin, Soybean Oil (Anti-dusting Agent), Garlic Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Cocoa Powder (Processed With Alkali), Silicon Dioxide, Natural Flavors, Yeast, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Smoke Flavor], Salt, Sodium Phosphates. CONTAINS SOYBEAN, WHEAT
Based on the lawsuit, in accordance with the USDA regulations, Taco Bell can't call this mixture "beef" at all. Beef is officially defined as "flesh of cattle", and ground beef is defined as:
Chopped fresh and/or frozen beef with or without seasoning and without the addition of beef fat as such, shall not contain more than 30 percent fat, and shall not contain added water, phosphates, binders, or extenders.
That is certainly nothing like the mix that Taco Bell is using in their products. Therefore, the law firm argues that the mixture labeled as "taco meat filling" in the industrial packaging should be labeled in exactly the same way in all advertising and packaging, as the USDA mandates.

Following USDA guidelines “by book”, any food labeled as "meat taco filling" should at least have 40% fresh meat. As, Taco Bell stuff only has 36% meat, that makes this claim well grounded from all perspectives.

The suit was filed on behalf of Taco Bell customer and California resident Amanda Obney, who is not seeking monetary damages, but instead wants a court to order Taco Bell to be honest in its advertising. "We are asking that they stop saying that they are selling beef," Miles said.

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Irvine, Calif.-based Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch said the company denies that its advertising is misleading and said the company would "vigorously defend the suit."

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