Alabama law firm Beasley Allen has some serious beef with Taco Bell. Well, more like a lack of beef.
The fast food giant is now facing a class action lawsuit for falsely referring to its taco filling as “seasoned beef” and “seasoned ground beef” when allegedly the mixture only contains 36 percent actual beef. Rather than seeking monetary damages, the lawsuit (pdf) demands that the company change its menu to reflect the food it’s selling.
And what, exactly, is Taco Bell selling? The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a woman in California and the general public, argues that Taco Bell should refer to its product as “taco meat filling” (such an appealing name) instead of beef, considering that it mostly consists of water and “extenders,” which include isolated oat product, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch, and sodium phosphate. Oh yeah, and there’s some beef and seasoning in there, too, but not much. All of these fillers and a significant lack of meat make for a taco that would be more accurately described as an “edible, food-like substance” as opposed to actual food.
The lawsuit also asks that Taco Bell launch a corrective advertising campaign to educate the public about the true content of its food products. Attorney W. Daniel “Dee” Miles III of the Beasley Allen law firm doesn’t mince words: “You can’t call it beef by definition,” Miles said. “It’s junk. I wouldn’t eat it.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines beef as “flesh of cattle” and requires that “Taco Meat Filling” contain at least 40 percent beef, so even to meet that minimum standard, Taco Bell will have to make some serious changes. The “Mexican-inspired” chain responded to the accusations in a prepared statement, claiming that the company prides itself on serving high-quality food at a great value and denies that its advertising is misleading the public. Taco Bell may be able to sell a lot of things, but the company is going to have a hard time convincing consumers that such a high percentage of fillers constitutes “high quality” or that it has been forthright about what’s in the tacos.
It may not come as a surprise that eating at Taco Bell is not part of a healthy diet, but at the very least, the company should be honest with consumers about what’s in the “meat.” If Taco Bell wants to use the term “Ground beef,” the company should follow USDA requirements and include only chopped fresh or frozen beef that doesn’t contain more than 30 percent fat or any added water, phosphates, binders, or extenders.