A CLASS-ACTION lawsuit has been filed accusing Taco Bell of false advertising because it describes the meat used in some of its products as "seasoned ground beef" when in fact, according to the January 19th filing, "a substantial amount of the filling contains substances other than beef."
The lawsuit cites USDA standards requiring that food products labeled "Taco filling" contain at least 40 percent fresh meat. The restaurant chain's ingredient statement lists wheat, soybean, and "isolated oat product" as components of the "seasoned ground beef" used in tacos and burritos, but doesn't divulge percentages.
Taco Bell responds
Without addressing the specifics of the lawsuit, a prepared statement issued by Taco Bell says the company will "vigorously" defend itself against the charges:
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.
(Update: In a subsequent statement, Taco Bell characterized the class action lawsuit as "frivolous and misleading," and said its ground beef mixture consists of 88% USDA-inspected beef and 12% "seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients that provide taste, texture and moisture.")
(Update: The lawsuit was dropped in April 2011.)
While we wait for southern California's U.S. District Court to render a decision on the merits of the case, it might be fruitful to recall some of the urban legends that have circulated about Taco Bell in recent years.
Urban legends: Taco Hell
One popular legend claims the restaurant uses worm meat as a "filler" in its beef products (not true). Allegedly, earthworms and mealworms are cheaper than beef, which is not actually the case.
And then there's the tale of the unfortunate Taco Bell customer who woke up with cockroaches in her mouth after eating a taco infested with insect eggs (oh, please!).
Other fast food chains including McDonald's and KFC have been subject to similar "gross-out" urban legends over the years, shining a light on the ambivalent attitude we Americans have toward our fast food: it scares us, but we love it. And we keep going back for more.
More fast food urban legends:
• Worms as 'Filler' in Fast Foods
• Cockroach Egg Tacos
• Woman Finds Chicken Head in Fried Wings
• Is McDonald's the World's Largest Purchase of Cow Eyeballs?
• Pus-Filled Tumor in McChicken Sandwich
• KFC Serves 'Mutant' Chicken