Last week, two Alabama and California legal firms filed a class-action lawsuit against Taco Bell Corporation alleging that Taco Bell has been misrepresenting its meat. The complaint regards the meat filling in several Taco Bell menu items, which the lawyers say does not meet the USDA's minimum standards to be labeled or advertised as "seasoned ground beef" or "seasoned beef" because a substantial amount of the filling is not meat.
The lawyers are attempting to prove that the meat includes binders and extenders such as "isolated oat product" and should therefore be labeled not as "beef" but "taco meat filling." The documents reference several Taco Bell advertisements, ingredient labels, and USDA definitions to make the case that the Bell is misleading customers.
Check out the evidence they've assembled:[jump]
Here's the nut of the problem, from the lawsuit (find the whole thing here):
Taco Bell's advertisement that it sells "beef" menu items containing "seasoned ground beef," is unsubstantiated, false, and misleading. The Products, unbeknownst to consumers, are comprised substantially of meat filling and are mislabeled. Taco Bell's "seasoned beef" actually contains among other ingredients, water, 'Isolated Oat Product,' wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch, and sodium phosphate, as well as beef and seasonings.
Here's one of the Taco Bell ads the lawsuit references, which refers to "seasoned ground beef:"
Then the lawsuit notes the USDA definition of ground beef: "shall consist of chopped flesh 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."
It's okay for restaurants to use ingredients with extenders and such, but they must contain "at least 40 percent fresh meat" and be labeled as "taco filling," according to the USDA labeling guidelines. In fact, the lawsuit notes that, internally, Taco Bell calls the ingredient it advertises as "seasoned ground beef" as "taco meat filling," as the labels of containers shipped to the restaurants indicates:
And we thought "Where's the Beef?" was Wendy's line.