Taco Bell Sued for Misrepresenting Beef

January 25, 2011

It’s all over the news that a class action lawsuit for fraud has been filed against Taco Bell. The company is accused of diluting its beef with fillers, to the point that it’s comprised of less than 35 percent beef.

While I would love Taco Bell to be sued into oblivion, and I’m all for replacing beef with plant-based materials, I’ve done some initial investigating and I’m skeptical that this lawsuit is viable.

The main red flag to me is the Taco Meat Filling label reproduced on page 8 of the complaint. The way that the label is written, the only ingredient that could possibly be used as a significant filler is “isolated oat product”—since the next seasoning on the list is salt, you’ve got to assume that everything after that is present is just trace amounts. And I highly doubt the oat ingredient could account for more than even 10 percent of the product’s weight.

Now I don’t for a moment doubt that Taco Bell’s beef ingredient is the fattiest, lowest-grade beef allowed by law. And it’s clear that like just about every other entity in the meat business, they add as much liquid as they can get away with. But unless Taco Bell is committing full-on fraud and shipping a product formulated very differently from its label, I don’t see how their actual beef percentage could be anywhere near the 35 percent claimed total.

I called up the company to try to inquire about the 35 percent claim, but the spokesperson wouldn’t respond. That’s understandable since, after all, they’re getting sued. But she did put me on a media contact list and I’ll follow up this piece when they send a detailed response.

In the meantime, Taco Bell’s president has responded forcefully, albeit in general terms, on the company 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.

So, I hope I’m wrong, since it would be great fun to see Taco Bell lose an expensive and embarrassing lawsuit, but from what I’ve seen so far I think the company will prevail.

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