I had a nice chat Friday with Gergana Koleva for her article “Taco Bell Has a Beef with Lawyers, Runs Nationwide Ads to Fight Back,” for AOL. Here were my thoughts:
Bill Marler, a foodborne illness and product liability attorney who has represented clients in at least three previous food-related lawsuits against Taco Bell, said the company has made a clever move by counterattacking its accusers.
“Taco Bell has done an effective job of taking on the lawyers, [regardless] of whether or not they were selling the definition of the meat,” Marler told Consumer Ally. “Lawyers are such an easy target to take on.”
However, Marler noted, the legal roots of the controversy lie just as much with Taco Bell. “It’s inconceivable to me that a company as sophisticated as Yum! Brands didn’t vet with their lawyers the words that they use to advertise their food,” he said of the claims that landed the company in trouble, namely that it uses “ground beef” or “seasoned ground beef” in its products.
The class action suit alleges the company only uses about 35% real beef, with the remaining 65% made up of various fillers, binders, and extenders. Such percentages do not meet USDA’s minimum requirements for the food mixture to be labeled and advertised as “beef,” according to the suit.
“Just because the food is cheap doesn’t mean they should be able to tell you that it’s something it is not,” Marler said. “But my strong suspicion is that their aggressive behavior in the ads is likely justified.”