There is an interesting lawsuit out of Alabama where lawyers have filed a class action against Taco Bell over its claim to serve “beef” in its dishes. In fact, the lawsuit alleges, Taco Bell is serving what are called “beef extenders” and not actual beef as defined by the U.S. government.
Taco Bell Corporation spokesman Rob Poetsch responded by saying that “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.” That is an interesting statement. It does not appear to deny that it is serving marginal beef products but that the company never really promised anything more than it serves. Presumably, if the company issued a statement that it was in fact serving “beef” in response to this lawsuit, it could be cited as part of the alleged effort to deceive in advertising (assuming they are not serving “beef” as defined by federal law).
The class action alleges the company is serving what is referred to as “taco meat filling, which is comprised mainly of “extenders” and other non-meat substances, including wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch and sodium phosphate as well as beef and seasonings. Of course, the company could claim that it is the anti-dusting agents and maltrodrexin that gives it that “high quality Mexican inspired food” taste but it would not actually have most Americans “running to the border.”
The lawsuit alleges that only 36% of what the company serves customers is properly classified as meat.
What is anti-dusting agent, you ask?
Well, I have tried to find out. Assuming this is the same product, one manufacturer indicates that it is helpful in a grinding process:
It is advisable to use as little quantity of Antidusting Agent (“Dedusting BM”) as possible since excessive amount may cause blending problem in subsequent process. The concentrated dye and diluents are mixed together. Then slowly spray the required percentage of Antidusting Agent (“Dedusting BM”) over an hour, continue mixing for additional 1 To 2 hrs. The purpose is to reduce dusting tendency during grinding and to keep manufacturing atmosphere free of dyestuff contamination.
Oils appear used for anti-dusting operation, particularly soybean oil.
As for maltodextrin, it is a polysaccharide that is used as a food additive — a white powder derived from either corn or potatoes.
Update: Greg Creed, president of Taco Bell, has issued this statement: