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TheStreet Open House

Yum!'s Taco Bell 'Meat' Prompts Lawsuit

Stocks in this article: YUMTSNWEN

Just 35% of what Taco Bell calls its "taco meat filling's" ingredient list was a solid and just 15% of it qualified as protein, according to attorney W. Daniel "Dee" Miles III of the Montgomery, Ala., law firm Beasley Allen, which filed the suit.

Taco Bell's Creed countered that "our seasoned beef recipe contains 88% quality USDA-inspected beef and 12% seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients that provide taste, texture and moisture. The lawyers got their facts wrong. We take this attack on our quality very seriously and plan to take legal action against them for making false statements about our products. There is no basis in fact or reality for this suit and we will vigorously defend the quality of our products from frivolous and misleading claims such as this."

Moreover, those USDA rules are meant for the meat processors from whom Taco Bell and other restaurateurs and food outlets get their meat. Taco Bell sources its meat from Tyson Foods (TSN).

Williams said it would be difficult to show that Taco Bell misrepresented the facts. Just because an ingredient list shows preservatives and other fillers as well as beef, he said, it likely doesn't change consumers' opinions that they're purchasing and eating beef tacos.

Williams said FDA requirements may not translate to what should or should not be stated in an advertisement for beef tacos. "We don't require Taco Bell to list all the ingredients in their commercial," he said. "If you're selling ground beef tacos as a finished processed product, it's a dangerous assumption that the FDA definition of ground beef necessarily translates."

The lawsuit argued that "Taco Bell's definition of 'seasoned beef' does not conform to consumers' reasonable expectation or ordinary meaning of seasoned beef, which is beef and seasonings."

"Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later -- and got their 'facts' absolutely wrong," Taco Bell's Creed said.

The Taco Bell Web site says that its taco meat "is made from USDA-inspected beef and is subjected to quality check points. It tastes great because it's simmered in 12 authentic seasonings and spices and is never frozen. Moreover, our taco meat is leaner than what you'll find in a restaurant-cooked hamburger because of the unique way that we prepare our taco meat and remove fat."

The site does list water, soybean oil (the anti-dusting agent), oats, isolated oat product, cocoa powder (processed with alkali) and modified corn starch, among other things, in the ingredients of its seasoned ground beef.

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