Taco Bell lawsuit draws attention to a major food issue
Thatâs not a joke.
The Alabama law firm Beasley Allen P.C. is pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Taco Bell for falsely advertising its âbeefâ filling as beef when, according to the firm, itâs mostly fillers and random flavorings â most notably, âisolated oat productâ and oats.
Although thereâs always been the running gag about mysterious fast-food meat products, I doubt anyone would have guessed that the meat in their Taco Bell burrito was only one-third real meat.
If the accusation is true, Taco Bellâs filling, by USDA standards, canât be called âbeef.â
In fact, it canât even be called âmeat taco filling,â which is the label used by the USDA for taco fillings that contain at least 40 percent fresh meat.
Unbelievably, Taco Bell fails to meet this very, very low bar.
But why would Taco Bell do such a thing? Why would it take a nice pile of ground beef and thin it out with water, oats and beef flavoring? What purpose does that serve?
When it comes to corporate food manipulation, the answer is simple â profit.
Of course, Taco Bell could use more fresh meat in its filling, perhaps raising the price of a foodstuff from 80 cents to â gasp! â a dollar. But why would they do that?
Itâs worked out perfectly fine for them to ride on the backs of their customersâ sheer apathy about what goes into the food they chow down.
And until now, itâs been a lot like âDonât Ask, Donât Tell.â Except maybe in this case, it would be âdonât ask, and we wonât ever mention that our meat isnât all that much meat â but hey, thanks for paying more than you should be.â
Granted, the latter doesnât roll off the tongue as well, but weâll get that ironed out.
In any event, the president of Taco Bell, Greg Creed, got all worked up, releasing a press statement. Creed notes that the company starts with â100 percent USDA-inspected beef,â and that it is proud of the quality of its beef, identifying all seasonings and spices on the Taco Bell website.
âUnfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later â and got their âfactsâ absolutely wrong,â Creed said. âWe plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food.â
Itâs hard to know whether or not the claims about Taco Bellâs meat filling are true. But it is important to note that the lawsuit does not ask for money, but a correction.
And itâs hard to believe that a law firm would dive into a pricey, time-consuming lawsuit without getting their research straight.
Itâs even more unthinkable than the idea that Taco Bellâs meat isnât mostly meat.
Thereâs nothing inherently wrong with Taco Bellâs filling. True, itâs kind of a grotesque, Frankensteinian creation, but meat and oats with flavoring doesnât seem too egregious. And God knows that the morning after a regrettable night of drinking, most people will be craving a sour-cream spurting taco with lots of Fire sauce.
The problem here is that if the claims are true, Taco Bell has been flaunting food service legalities to prevent its customers from dealing with unappetizing descriptions of its food.
What sounds better to you, âa crunchy, corn taco shell filled with seasoned ground beef,â or âa crunchy, corn taco shell filled with meat taco filling?â
The bottom line is that if fast- food corporations want to serve their customers dirt-cheap food of questionable quality, they should be forthcoming about their ingredients.
A white lie, at dayâs end, Â is still a lie.
And itâs our job as consumers to demand the best that can be reasonably offered.
No oneâs asking Taco Bell to hire Gordon Ramsay to redo its menu, but is it all that much to ask that we be told the truth once in a while?
Although there might not be anything wrong with tacos full of oat-meat, there is something surreptitious about passing them off as a higher grade product.
Thankfully, Beasley Allen P.C. is willing to ask the question that many of us simply never consider: What the heck are we eating?
Eddie Kim is a sophomore majoring in print journalism. His column, âFood As Life,â runs Thursdays.