When is beef not beef? Ala. law firm sues Taco Bell

Published: May. 1, 2014 at 2:49 PM CDT
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Taco Bell container label Beasley Allen law firm says is proof Taco Bell is misleading its...
Taco Bell container label Beasley Allen law firm says is proof Taco Bell is misleading its customers.

Posted by: JoBeth Davis

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - What's in a name? That's the question at the heart of a class action lawsuit Montgomery, Alabama law firm Beasley Allen filed targeting fast food giant Taco Bell. The lawsuit claims the company uses "false advertising" on its menu and in its advertisements.

WSFA 12 News contacted the Taco Bell Corporation for a response to the lawsuit. Company spokesman Rob Poetsch issued this statement::

"Taco Bell prides itself on serving high quality Mexican inspired food with great value.  We're happy that the millions of customers we serve every week agree. We deny our advertising is misleading in any way and we intend to vigorously defend the suit.

"The complaint alleges that what Taco Bell calls "beef" doesn't meet the minimum requirements set by the USDA to be called "beef" or "seasoned ground beef" or anything of the kind.

"Rather than beef, these food items are actually made with a substance known as "taco meat filling," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit states that Taco Bell should refer to its product as "taco meat filling" because it contains mostly "extenders" and other non-meat substances.

What are these substances? The document lists water, "Isolated Oat Product," wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch and sodium phosphate as well as beef and seasonings.

The USDA defines "beef" as "flesh of cattle."

The definition as read in the lawsuit states "Ground beef" "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."

The USDA policy book requires food labeled as "taco filling" to contain "at least 40 percent fresh meat," and the label must show the true product name.

In containers shipped to Taco Bell stores, not seen by consumers, the label reads: "Taco Meat Filling."

Beasley Allen law firm adds that what Taco Bell is marketing as beef only contains 36% meat.

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