TheStreet combed through the, shall we say, April fool's gold that is our 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street column to find the juiciest nuggets from the first quarter of 2011. Here are what we considered the top five foolish stories from the first three months of the year. We have no doubt there will be more -- much more --to come as the year continues.
5. Taco Bell's Mystery Meat
Originally published on Jan. 28 -- Yum! Brands' (YUM - Get Report) Taco Bell faced one question in a potential class action lawsuit filed earlier this year -- Where's the beef?
According to a suit filed by law firm Beasley Allen, what Taco Bell is advertising as beef is more of a beef filling, with heavy emphasis on the filling. In fact, the suit alleges there is so little actual beef in the filling that Taco Bell shouldn't even be allowed to call it beef.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines beef as "flesh of cattle." The suit, which does not seek monetary compensation save for attorneys' fees and costs, claims that Taco Bell calls its products "seasoned ground beef or seasoned beef, when in fact a substantial amount of the filling contains substances other than beef." The suit claims that 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. As Rachel Ray would say, "Yum-O!"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. Taco Bell spent the week vigorously responding to the suit, which grabbed more and more media attention as the weeks went on. A company representative said late in the week 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."
Taco Bell probably should have been ready for this one as it has had bad luck when it comes to the quality, or perceived quality, of its key ingredients. Sister company KFC was said to have been forced to change its name from Kentucky Fried Chicken because it served genetically engineered meat that didn't qualify as chicken. Not true, but an urban myth that has persisted. Whether Taco Bell wins the day in court, the damage may already have been done. But the KFC myth didn't hurt them too badly, and we don't think high school and college kids will stop making a run for the border any time soon.