Taco Bell Sued for Bogus Beef

Next Up? A Copywriting Contest Using Phrase 'Taco Meat Filling'

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It might not be Grade F meat (circus animals and filler, according to "The Simpsons"), but a class action lawsuit accuses Yum Brands' Taco Bell of false advertising for claiming to use "seasoned beef" or "seasoned ground beef" in its fare.

Where's the beef?
Where's the beef?
Rather than using ground beef, the lawsuit claims that Taco Bell's products are actually made with an ominous-sounding, fright-inducing conglomeration called "taco meat filling," which mainly consists of "extenders" and other non-meat substances such as "isolated oat product." The complaint claims that the majority of the filling consists of substances other than beef, and that Taco Bell is required to refer to it as "taco meat filling," but does not do so.

"Taco meat filling is not beef," the complaint said. "In fact, it does not meet the standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture ('USDA') to be labeled or advertised as beef, seasoned or otherwise."

In addition to seeking attorneys' fees and costs, the lawsuit asks that Taco Bell halt the dissemination of its "false and misleading advertising message, and correct the false and misleading perception it has created in the minds of consumers."

It looks like Taco Bell will not take this lying down. "At Taco Bell, we buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods," Greg Creed, president-chief concept officer at Taco Bell Corp., said in a statement. "We start with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef. Then we simmer it in our proprietary blend of seasonings and spices to give our seasoned beef its signature Taco Bell taste and texture. We are proud of the quality of our beef and identify all the seasoning and spice ingredients on our website. Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later -- and got their 'facts' absolutely wrong. We plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food."

It's a counter-suit worth pursuing. Somehow the description of the Crunchy Taco wouldn't have the same ring if it had to be referred to as a "crunchy corn taco filled with 'taco meat filling,' crisp shredded lettuce and real cheddar cheese."

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court Central District of California Southern Division by Montgomery, Ala.-based law firm Beasley Allen along with the San Diego law firm Blood Hurst & O' Reardon. The plaintiff is California resident Amanda Obney, who filed on behalf of "herself, all others similarly situated and the general public."