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TheStreet Open House

Yum!'s Taco Bell 'Meat' Prompts Lawsuit

Stocks in this article: YUM TSN WEN

Taco Bell's Creed said the fast-food chain cooks only beef that is inspected by the USDA, simmering it in a "proprietary blend of seasonings and spices" to create the signature taste and texture its customers love.

Nelson Mullins' Williams, a past president of DRI - The Voice of the Defense Bar , said that Taco Bell "took an extremely aggressive approach in their response, which they should, if they've determined that they're right. Class-action litigation is high-stakes litigation."

He added that if Taco Bell hadn't forcefully responded to the allegations brought against it, the company ran the risk of allowing the accusations to become part of a harmful conventional wisdom about their product, a scenario that brings to mind the similar -- and false -- urban myth that Kentucky Fried Chicken, also owned by Yum!, changed its name to KFC because it served genetically engineered meat that didn't qualify as chicken.

Not too long ago fast-food chain Wendy's (WEN - Get Report) faced allegations -- also false -- that a woman had found part of a human finger in her chili.

"The last thing you want is to become part of that kind of common lexicon," he said. "We can assume that if Taco Bell takes that kind of response they analyzed the case and determined they can prevail."

Williams said he would advise his corporate clients to take a similarly aggressively response as Taco Bell did, though he conceded that a lot of companies are reluctant to engage in forceful, hardball responses to such allegations. Considering the potential damage to Taco Bell's brand image, it was the right move, he said, as long as the company is right.

"The worst thing that could happen for Taco Bell would be if the plaintiff's allegations were true," Williams told TheStreet.

The suit said Taco Bell's ground beef includes ingredients such as water, isolated oat product, an anti-dusting agent, an anti-caking agent and modified corn starch, as well as beef and seasonings.

The USDA says that "ground beef can have seasonings, but no water, phosphates, extenders, or binders added."

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