January 19, Californian Amanda Obney filed a consumer rights class action lawsuit through an Alabama law firm against Taco Bell. Obney said that the Mexican restaurant’s beef taco doesn’t meet official standards. Instead of ‘beef,’ it should instead be described as ‘mixed meat’ or ‘taco meat filling’.
Taco Bell denies all charges, saying that their meat is “88 percent ground beef, with the remaining 12 percent being the secret recipe,” according to the Technician Online.
“We stand behind the quality of our seasoned beef 100 percent and we are proud to serve it in all our restaurants. We take any claims to the contrary very seriously and plan to take legal action against those who have made false claims against our seasoned beef,” said Greg Creed, Taco Bell president.
Tyson Foods, from whom Taco Bell purchases their meat, also discounts the attacks and vouches for Taco Bell’s claims: “We take great pride in the seasoned beef we provide Taco Bell. We begin with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef. We combine this high-quality beef with Taco Bell’s proprietary seasonings and spices; then we slowly cook it and package it for shipment to Taco Bell restaurants.”
“Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later—and got their ‘facts’ absolutely wrong,” Creed said. “We plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food.”
According to page four of the lawsuit, “The ‘chicken’ and ‘carne asada steak’ served by Taco Bell is, in fact, chicken or carne asada steak. The ‘seasoned beef’, however, is not beef.”
How food is classified depends on the quality. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets the standards for what meat must consist of before being titled.
For example, according to the USDA, in order to be called ‘beef’, meat must be at least 40 percent meat, but according to tests done by Obney’s lawyers, Taco Bell only has 35 percent.
They claim the so-called ‘beef’ is filled with extenders. “Taco Bell’s ‘seasoned beef’ actually contains among other ingredients, water, ‘Isolated Oat Product,’ wheat oats, soy, lechin… as well as beef and seasonings,” according to the complaint.
Taco Bell’s website lists those ingredients as part of the seasoning, not part of the meat. Also, as it turns out, ‘Isolated Oat Product’ isn’t all that uncommon. According to the Associated Press, experts say this ingredient is in a lot of fast food and processed products sold in stores and is used to enrich taste and moisture.
Attorney W. Daniel Miles III said, “We are asking that they [Taco Bell] stop saying that they are selling beef.” The plaintiff is not looking for Taco Bell to pay any fines.
Comedian Stephen Colbert made fun of the product, saying, “No wonder they call it a beefy crunch burrito. It is beef-y. Or beef-ish. At the very least it is beef-adjacent.”
Kevin Ritter, senior, doesn’t plan on discontinuing his trips to the restaurant. “It’s cheap and tastes good.”
Georgia Olsen, senior, said she thinks people may stop eating there. “A lot of [the customers] are going to be freaked out about what goes in [the food].”
“[M]ost say it’s unlikely to seriously dent Taco Bell’s image or business, which serves 35 million people a week.” Associated Press.
“No one really goes to Taco Bell for quality,” commented Ritter.
Taco Bell launched an advertisement campaign, acknowledging the lawsuit and even saying ‘thank you for suing us.’ The ad listed all ingredients, refuted the claims brought against them, and assured consumers of the quality of their food and of the pride they have in serving it.
Collbert said, “And even if it is only 35 percent beef, well I say I’ll just eat three of them to get 105 percent!”