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Published on January 26th, 2011 | by Rachel Shulman

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Taco Bell Sued for Selling Fake Meat

A California woman is suing Taco Bell for false advertising. The claim? There’s too little “beef” in Taco Bell’s products for the company to label their products as such.

The USDA mandates that any food labeled as “meat taco filling” should have at least 40 percent fresh meat (which is kind of astonishing in itself). According to the woman’s law firm, Taco Bell’s taco filling only has 36 percent meat.

What makes up the rest of the meat taco filling, you might ask? Here’s the list of ingredients that comprises the remaining 64 percent:

Water, isolated oat product, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, oats (wheat), soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin, soybean oil, garlic powder, autolyzed yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder, silicon dioxide, natural flavors, yeast, modified corn starch, natural smoke flavor, salt, sodium phosphate, less than 2% of beef broth, potassium phosphate, and potassium lactate.

Mmmm nothing makes tortured, disease-laden industrial beef taste better than a good old heaping of maltodextrin and autolyzed yeast extract, wouldn’t you say?

From fast food meals that don’t decompose to pink slime in burgers and now “beef” that’s not really beef, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that fast food joints are selling nothing but fake food.

Fake food doesn’t just exist at fast food restaurants like Taco Bell, though. It’s ubiquitous in grocery stores too. In fact, processed food represents the majority of the average American’s diet, which has dramatically increased rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and allergies in this country. Even health-conscious people often rely too much on processed foods like power bars, soy cheese, and veggie burgers.

I think that the best way to take a stand against this tide of fake food is to eat real food – vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and honest proteins. What do you think?

Image courtesy of Like_the_Grand_Canyon via a Creative Commons license.



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About the Author

I'm an ecologist turned journalist turned farmer-in-training. I'm currently working on an organic farm and creamery in Illinois. Follow me on twitter (http://twitter.com/rachelshulman), friend me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=3105709), or follow me on StumbleUpon (http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/RachelShulman/).



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  • http://Web Fitz Puffinstuff

    Food nazi!!

    • http://community.importantmedia.org/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

      I’m not sure wanting your food to be actual food qualifies you as a nazi.

      • http://Web Joe

        She didn’t look into this any further than her greed! Taco Bell has some of the most healthy ingredients of all the fast food chains. Funny thing about it being on this type of forum.. is anyone wanting better food should know better! Grow your own or eat where you know it’s 100%. We all know TB and other places we eat at are not 100% and knowingly choose to eat there.

        • http://community.importantmedia.org/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

          Now the greed motivation is one I agree with here. While I don’t necessarily agree with the lawsuit, I am glad that this story is getting folks talking about whether fast food is actually food.

          Thanks for pointing out that we should know better. I fully agree, and our regular readers certainly do. That said, not everyone thinks about what’s in their 49 cent burrito.

          • http://Web Deer Hunter

            Saying Taco Bell “has some of the most healthy ingredients of all the fast food chains” is like saying that eating rat poison is one of the least harmful poisons you can eat! Delusional.

            • Rachel Shulman

              Yeah, Taco Bell might be better than McDonalds… but it’s kind of like comparing bad to worse. Chipotle is probably the best in terms of fast food.

        • Rachel Shulman

          I agree that most people reading this website know better than to eat fast food. What’s interesting to me is the larger discussion on the prevalence of fake food in our eating culture.

  • http://Web Jhon

    Link this on your facebook pages and get the word out. Corporations have to be held accountable for doing stuff like this or they will continue to try and pull the wool over our eyes.

  • http://Web Joe

    In all actuality, that mystery meat is better for you than all meat. She should just shut up and eat it, or move on. There are better things to do with her life. I side with TB.

    • Rachel Shulman

      While I agree with you that a burger made of 64% filler is probably better for you than a burger made with 100% industrial ground beef, perhaps this lawsuit will make people more aware of what they’re eating.

  • http://Web Olivia

    Real food? As a vegetarian, I cannot look at a cow and say “food”, let alone “real food”. But anyway, how many people have talked about McDonald’s chicken mcnuggets? Aren’t they like 30% chicken? And yet people STILL eat them? I also side with TB. I really doubt she’s mad that it’s not real meat… she just wants money, and saw her opportunity.

  • http://Web eliana

    is this true

  • http://www.vegstarterpack.com Sally

    My guess would be she’s not in it for money. I’d guess she’s a dietitian or something like that trying to make a point.

  • http://Web Travis

    people keep saying “fake food”, the main filler they are using is oats. pretty sure oats are real. everything from soybean oil on down in the list of ingredients is not used in large amounts. if you would care to see massive lists of ingredients that look much like this (except for the 36% meat) flip over a box of morningstar farm or boca products. switching meat for oats seems like something this website would be applauding. they are sneaking more veg and fiber into people’s diets.

  • http://aol glenn

    toco bells meat tast like crap.my wife and me both gaged on that crap.dont say it is real meat and sell you skin fat soybean and what ealse they put in it.it is the worse food i have eaten.ps. IT STINKS.

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  • http://Web Alexis

    Okay so anyways it has meat in it but they use other ingredients to make it taste better. Gosh, are people this determine, i mean really it doesn’t taste that bad. A lot of people don’t have so much trouble about the taste. If you don’t like it then that’s fine, its your opinion. Anyways all i wanted to say was this is really pointless and deficient. She isn’t suing them anyways she just said she wants them to be truthful when they talk about there food.

  • http://Web Amanda

    I would like to state that I do not work for Taco Bell or any company associated with it. I am a soon-to-be university graduate from an honours food science bachelor of science program. I am constantly surprised by the general public’s lack of knowledge about the food products they eat, and am trying to share some of what I’ve learned with you.

    I think that people need to realize that when you are purchasing something from a fast food restaurant, or even the “processed” isles of the supermarket, there will be ingredients present that you may have never heard of in your home cooking experience. Something is not bad for you just because you can’t pronounce it, or don’t know what it is… even if current marketing seems to imply otherwise.

    In large scale food production, there are several things that need to be considered that you wouldn’t think about in everyday cooking. I’ve only listed 2 because I know this post is already getting long and I would like it if some people made it all the way through, haha.

    1. Equipment is much larger and so the amounts of ingredients needed are much larger. When is the last time you needed to handle several kilograms of dried spices at home? Moisture can cause clumping, so ingredients need to be added to the spices to prevent clumping. These anti-caking agents are considered ingredients and are regulated by government agencies.

    2. The actual process of cooking is not the same as it would be in your kitchen. Taco Bell does not have some outrageous number of stoves with frying pans on them cooking your taco meat. It has some larger scale equipment that has been designed (under strict guidelines by governing agencies) to SAFELY cook the meat and give the same results on a consistent basis. Sometimes this type of processing change will give the final result a different texture or flavour than the home-cooked version. Things like starches (think adding corn starch when you’re making gravy), gums, and fibre are added to improve texture. Flavour enhancers can have some weird-sounding names but really aren’t that daunting. For example, autolysed yeast extract sounds strange but is actually the main component of Marmite, a popular spread in the UK.

    The message I’m trying to send home? Well I guess there are two. Don’t pass judgment before you hear all sides to a story.
    AND
    Unless you plan on only eating food that you’ve grown, harvested, and prepared by yourself, please please PLEASE try to educate yourself about the things in your foods that you’re unsure of before you condemn them. It’s amazing what you can learn from something as simple as Wikipedia.

    • http://Web Paul

      Welcome to America! What a country.
      Anyway, everything we eat is contaminated with hormones and pestesites!
      Which is why everytime you turn the TV on they are advertising what drug you need!
      You eat it because it is cheaper to buy it then cook it.
      Did you say educate?
      Wake up! When the idiots in school can’t add and subctract and fill out Multiple choice questions is that education?
      This is why in europe in elementary the teach Calculus one and here no!

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