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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Taco Bell – “Thank you for suing us” – How come they never say that to me?

Screen shot 2011-01-28 at 9.39.49 AM.pngA class action lawsuit was filed a few days against Taco Bell. The claim is that its claims that its products contain “seasoned ground beef” or “seasoned beef” are “false and misleading” because the beef is in fact “taco meat filling.”

According to Beth Weise of U.S.A. Today, “Taco beef filling” and “ground beef” are two very different things in the eyes of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Apparently, ground beef must be at least 70% beef (no more than 30% fat) and not include added water, phosphates, extenders or binders, though seasoning may be an ingredient. Taco beef filling must contain at least 40% fresh meat, and the label must show the true product name, such as “Taco Filling with Meat,” “Beef Taco Filling,” or “Taco Meat Filling.”

The latter is how Taco Bell labels the beef filling sent to its restaurants, the lawsuit contends, and it includes a copy of one of the labels. But in ads the company calls it “seasoned ground beef.” However, Taco Bell contends that its seasoned beef contains “88% USDA inspected quality beef.”

The merits of the lawsuit aside, you have to give credit to Taco Bell for the novel approach to the litigation.  How come they have never thanked me in the past?

Taco Bell Salmonella Hartford and Baildon Outbreaks, Nationwide, 2010

Taco Bell Hepatitis A Outbreak, Florida, 2000

Taco Bell E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak, Northeast, 2006

  • Carl Custer

    FWIW: The FSIS Labeling Policy book
    Product must contain at least 15 percent meat.
    Product must contain at least 40 percent fresh meat. The label must show true product name, e.g., —Taco Filling with Meat,“ —Beef Taco Filling,“ or —Taco Meat Filling.“
    While 9 CFR Sec. 319.15 Miscellaneous beef products.
    (a) Chopped beef, ground beef. “Chopped Beef” or “Ground Beef” shall consist of chopped fresh and/or frozen beef with or without seasoning and without the addition of beef fat as such, shall not contain more than 30 percent fat, and shall not contain added water, phosphates, binders, or extenders. When beef cheek meat (trimmed beef cheeks) is used in the preparation of chopped or ground beef, the amount of such cheek meat shall be limited to 25 percent; and if in excess of natural proportions, its presence shall be declared on the label, in the ingredient statement required by Sec. 317.2 of this subchapter, if any, and otherwise contiguous to the name of the product.
    “seasoned ground beef.” may be a fanciful name like “shrimp or chicken fajitas”.
    But what do you expect for 99¢? :^)

  • Ann Quinn, consumer

    “But what do you expect for 99¢?”
    I expect food processors and food retailers who market any food product
    in the United States not to sicken people no matter what the economic
    level of the consumer may be.

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Thank goodness we have Federal Agencies like the FSIS and the FDA that govern food labeling laws. Otherwise you could truly have crap served in a box and noone would be the wiser! The stronger the labeling laws get, the wiser the American public becomes over making smarter food choices.