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Taco Bell Hit With Lawsuit: Can Its Beef Be Legally Called Beef?

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The Sun Sentinel reported yesterday that a California woman, Amanda Obney, has brought a false-advertising lawsuit against Taco Bell for calling its products "seasoned ground beef or seasoned beef" -- when, the suit declares, "in fact a substantial amount of the filling contains substances other than beef."

According to attorney W. Daniel "Dee" Miles III of the law firm Beasley Allen, which filed the suit, "just 35 percent of the taco filling was a solid, and just 15 percent overall was protein."

The suit says that Taco Bell's ground beef is made of such components as "water, isolated oat product, wheat oats, maltodextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch, and sodium phosphate -- along with beef and seasonings."

Taco Bell President and Chief Concept Officer Greg Creed shot back at the lawyers, saying they "got their 'facts' absolutely wrong," and the company plans "to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food."

"At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods...We are proud of the quality of our beef and identify all the seasoning and spice ingredients on our website."

It's true. Here are the "seasoning and spice" ingredients in Taco Bell "ground beef":

  • Water
  • Isolated oat product
  • Salt
  • Chili pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Tomato powder
  • Oats
  • Soy lecithin
  • Sugar
  • Spices
  • Maltodextrin
  • Soybean oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Autolyzed yeast extract
  • Citric acid
  • Caramel color
  • Cocoa powder
  • Silicon dioxide
  • Yeast
  • Modified corn starch
  • Natural smoke flavor
  • Sodium phosphate
  • Less than 2% beef broth
  • Potassium phosphate
  • Potassium lactate

The USDA defines ground beef 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.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Central District of California, seeks no monetary damages. Ms. Obney only asks the court to order Taco Bell to be honest in its advertising.

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