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.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

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.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

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."

Sources and Additional Information:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

iPhone and Verizon: Will that be a Happy Marriage?

The rumors were going in rounds, but nothing happened… until now. The iPhone is finally coming to Verizon. After talking up his new LTE network a bit, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam confirmed a CDMA (non-LTE) version of the iPhone 4 will be introduced to Verizon Wireless network next month. Talks started way back in 2008, and the phone has been in testing for a year -- it sounds like they wanted to get this one right. Current Verizon customers will be able to pre-order on February 3rd for the standard $200 price for the 16GB model on a two year agreement, $300 for the 32GB version -- everyone else can order on February 10th (see it compared with AT&T's iPhone 4). Just to clarify and put any wild rumors to bed, the phone is Verizon 3G (EV-DO) only, no 4G data or GSM roaming. It's not a world phone or an AT&T + Verizon phone, it's just a Verizon phone.

Outside of Verizon connectivity, the phone is basically unchanged, although Verizon's CDMA network doesn't support simultaneous voice and data as with the GSM version. It does have the new antenna design we were hearing about last week, but that's just because CMDA requires a different configuration of antennas. Apple claims they didn't go LTE just yet because first-gen chipsets would force unwanted design decisions, and customers want a Verizon device now. That slight modification also equates to a slight bump in where the volume buttons and mute switch -- a new case might be required. Software-wise the big innovation is five user WiFi hotspot functionality, something that's standard on Android phones, while Apple has kept the iPhone only able to tether directly to one computer.

How that may change the competition of the wireless carriers? A lot! With the network available on the US market, Verizon will be able to attract all the iPhone fans from the main competitor AT&T and ultimately dominate the market. When the iPhone hits Verizon on February 3rd, we are likely to see the following consequences:
  • Apple and Android will breakaway as the two leading mobile operating systems, both separating even further from the pack over the next year. BlackBerry, Windows Phone, WebOS and others are in big, big trouble.
  • Apple and Google will begin a more rigorous arms race in terms of releasing new and innovative features. This is what I really love: both want to “win” and will push harder and harder to make the best product, and in the end, it’s the consumer that really wins.
  • Prices for smartphones in general will drop due to increased competition – consumers win again.
Personally, as long-term Verizon user and fateful Droid fan, I do not care much about the new gadget introduction. But I do care on the quality and reliability of the network connection. There is a serious danger that Verizon’s network may become just as congested and overloaded as AT&T’s became as soon as iPhone has been introduced to AT&T. Verizon assures that network is ready for all surprises. Is that true – we will see soon.

Sources and Additional Information: