Taco Bell was hit with a class action lawsuit alleging that the company falsely advertises certain products as seasoned ground beef or seasoned beef, when in fact they are actually made from taco meat filling.
The case was filed last week in California by an Alabama law firm on behalf of plaintiff Amanda Obney and the general public.
Taco meat filling consists of extenders and other non-meat substances, according to the filing. The substance used at Taco Bell does not meet the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) minimum standard to be called beef and should thus be considered meat filling.
Moreover, Taco Bell claims certain ingredients in its products are seasonings. For example, the Beefy Crunch Burrito claims to be made of layers seasoned (with) ground beef.
However, the seasoning ingredients are not meant to add flavor, but rather to increase the volume and thus dilute the amount of actual beef used, according to the lawsuit.
So what does Taco Bell's meat filling actually contain?
According to the complaint, the non-beef ingredients include water, Isolated Oat Product, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch, and sodium phosphate.
Taco Bell allegedly uses the label taco meat filling internally -- including the containers shipped to its restaurant branches.
The label reportedly reads as follows:
TACO MEAT FILLING
CARAMEL COLOR AND NATURAL SMOKE FLAVOR ADDED
To the public, of course, the fast-food chain uses the term beef.
The plaintiffs want, among other things, for Taco Bell to label its products with the allegedly truthful phrase of taco meat filling and conduct a correctively advertising campaign to correct misconceptions that it uses real beef.
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Below is Taco Bell's statement in response to the lawsuit:
At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods. We start with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef. Then we simmer it in our proprietary blend of seasonings and spices to give our seasoned beef its signature Taco Bell taste and texture. We are proud of the quality of our beef and identify all the seasoning and spice ingredients on our website. Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later -- and got their facts absolutely wrong. We plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food.