Lawsuit challenges Taco Bell's beef claims

by Keith Nunes
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SANTA ANA, CALIF. — A class-action lawsuit filed earlier this week calls into question the filling the fast-food franchise Taco Bell uses in its tacos. The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court Central District of California Southern Division, claims the filling does not meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s standard to be labeled or advertised as beef.

Taco Bell, a division of Yum! Brands, Inc., Louisville, Ky., has rejected the lawsuit’s claim.

“At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods,” said Greg Creed, president and chief concept officer for the Taco Bell Corp. “We start with 100% U.S.D.A.-inspected beef. Then we simmer it in our proprietary blend of seasonings and spices to give our seasoned beef its signature Taco Bell taste and texture.

“We are proud of the quality of our beef and identify all the seasoning and spice ingredients on our web site. 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.”

The lawsuit challenges Taco Bell’s practice of marketing that its restaurants serve seasoned ground beef or seasoned beef when “a substantial amount of the filling contains substances other than beef,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks to require Taco Bell to change its advertising and labeling efforts, and to develop a corrective advertising campaign to educate the public about the content of its products.

“Our government, through the U.S.D.A. and F.D.A., provides definitions, standards and labeling guidelines for ‘ground beef,’” said Dee Miles, an attorney for the law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis and Miles, Montgomery, Ala. “What Taco Bell is representing on their restaurant menu as ‘ground beef’ does not meet any of those definitions, standards and labeling guidelines.

“This product does not qualify to be considered ‘ground beef’ and many of the ‘seasoning’ ingredients are in fact binders, fillers and coloring. These ingredients increase the overall volume of this product, reducing the actual ‘beef’ content per serving. It is against the law in this country to take someone’s money for a product that is misrepresented. This lawsuit seeks to put a stop to that type of conduct and practice.”

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