Taco Bell Faces Lawsuit Over 'Seasoned Beef'
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Unidentified Man: The new 99-cent beefy crunch burrito, the crunch of flaming hot Fritos chips, seasoned beef and nacho cheese sauce.
(SOUNDBITE OF TACO BELL AD)
NORRIS: But a new class action lawsuit says that the seasoned beef Taco Bell uses in many of its menu items doesn't contain enough meat, just under 35 percent, to legally call it ground beef.
B: Dee Miles of the firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles. And Mr. Miles, thank you very much for being with us.
DEE MILES: Thank you for having me.
NORRIS: And if you're right and there is only 35 percent actual beef in Taco Bell's seasoned beef, what makes up the other 65 percent?
MILES: Well, those are the items that are listed in the lawsuit. It's things like soybeans and wheat and oats, non-meat products. There are things I can't even pronounce and don't know what they are, but they are non-beef products or non-meat products, and so you have basically almost 65 percent of this beef product being something other than beef.
NORRIS: How did this case come to you?
MILES: Well, the United States government refers to beef as being 70 percent beef and 30 percent fat, that's the minimum requirement for beef. And it's clear that Taco Bell's product is not that. So to call it beef is a misrepresentation.
NORRIS: Now, isn't there some leeway if they actually call it taco filling or something like that under those USDA requirements?
MILES: That's correct, but they don't call it that. They call it that internally. You're exactly correct. There is a 40 percent requirement that the product be beef or flesh from the cow in order for it to be called taco meat filling. However, under our analysis of the product, the Taco Bell product, at least the beef products, we're not even reaching the 40 percent. It's about 35 percent.
NORRIS: To that you say what?
MILES: I say that I have the facts. We actually tested the beef before we filed a lawsuit. This wasn't filed on an allegation. And their statement does not address the issue. If it is not beef product, and if it not 70 percent beef and 30 percent fat, you cannot call it beef. And if you do, you're in violation of the federal government rules and standards.
NORRIS: So is this a - are you taking issue with the way that they are labeling the product, or ultimately, do you want them to change what they serve in their restaurants?
MILES: What the lawsuit seeks to do is two things: One, label your product correctly. If it's taco meat filling, then call it that. And secondly, the way you advertise your product, if you can't call it beef if it doesn't meet that definition, and if you're not going to do those things on your own, that's what the lawsuit does, it requests injunctive relief, which basically means Taco Bell, if you're not going to make these changes, we're going to ask a court to impose these changes on your practices.
NORRIS: Mr. Miles, thank you very much for speaking with us.
MILES: Thank you.
NORRIS: And that was Dee Miles. He's one of the attorneys pursuing a class action lawsuit against Taco Bell. At issue is whether or not the fast food chain's seasoned beef can legally be called beef.
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