Following this morning’s news of the class-action lawsuit claiming that what Taco Bell calls “beef” doesn’t meet the USDA’s minimum requirements for anything called “beef” or “seasoned ground beef,” the company is doing damage control.
Greg Creed, Taco Bell’s president and chief concept officer, has sent along the following statement:
At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods [Ed.: We can’t really claim to “trust” 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.
While Taco Bell may indeed start with 100 percent beef, it is only a fraction of the finished product. The ingredients listed on the company’s site for the “seasoned ground beef” in its beefy crunch burrito, for example, are
Beef, Water, Seasoning [Isolated Oat Product, Salt, Chili Pepper, Onion Powder, Tomato Powder, Oats (Wheat), Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Spices, Maltodextrin, Soybean Oil (Anti-dusting Agent), Garlic Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Cocoa Powder (Processed With Alkali), Silicon Dioxide, Natural Flavors, Yeast, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Smoke Flavor], Salt, Sodium Phosphates.
And as the original lawsuit asserts, the USDA’s definition of “ground beef” (as written in the suit) states that the product “shall consist of 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.” Which seems to contradict Taco Bell’s suggestion that it’s playing by the USDA’s rules, and to render the righteousness of its “Who, me?” response a bit rich. Almost as rich as the “cheesy hot molten lava sauce” on its Volcano Nachos (which also contain “seasoned ground beef”), and decidedly more aromatic.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 25, 2011