"Water, isolated oat product, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, tomato powder, oats (wheat), soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin (a polysaccharide that is absorbed as glucose), soybean oil (anti-dusting agent), garlic powder …
…autolyzed yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder, silicon dioxide (anti-caking agent), natural flavors, yeast, modified corn starch, natural smoke flavor, salt, sodium phosphate, less than 2 percent of beef broth, potassium phosphate, and potassium lactate."
The filling also includes 36 percent beef. The other 64 percent consist of the ingredients listed above.
According to the USDA, this can't be called "beef" at all, which is why it comes in a big package labeled "Taco Meat Filling."
Now an Alabama law firm is presenting Taco Bell with a lawsuit for false advertising for claiming they sell "beef" products. But Taco Bell might be in violation of the law even if they sold "Taco Meat Filling" burritos. The USDA says that any food labeled as "meat taco filling" should at least have 40 percent fresh meat; Taco Bell's contains only 36 percent.
Taco Bell, meanwhile, says the lawsuit is based on "false statements," and that they are "proud of the quality of their beef." They plan to take their own legal action in response.
Taco Bell is known for its inexpensive Mexican food available at all hours of the night -- not their dedication to serving healthy food. Still, passing off "taco meat filling" that contains only 36 percent actual meat as "beef" is pretty low, even for Taco Bell.
This concoction of isolated oat product, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, sodium phosphate, silicon dioxide, soybean oil and sugar cannot even be legally called "meat," as the USDA requires meat concentrations of at least 40 percent to make that claim.
Taco Bell: Where's the Beef?
Taco Bell uses the term "beef" widely in its menus and advertising, a move that reportedly spurred a "disgruntled customer" to file a lawsuit against them for false advertising with an Alabama law firm. For the record, the suit is not asking for money, but rather wants Taco Bell to own up to what's really in their food and label their products accordingly.
Taco Bell has since fired back, launching a very public retaliation against the suit that includes full-page newspaper ads headlined "Thank you for suing us."
The company alleges that their taco mixture contains 88 percent beef, not 36, and they've bought up top search engine keywords like "taco," "bell," and "lawsuit" so customers see their official statement first when looking up the story online.
Only time will tell whether the lawsuit's claim that Taco Bell uses pseudo meat will be proven as fact, but one thing's already apparent: if your diet is focused on Taco Bell or any other fast-food restaurant, your health will sooner or later suffer.
Can Any Fast-Food Really be Called "Food"?
As a general rule, "food" equals "live nutrients." Nutrients, in turn, feed your cells, optimize your health and sustain life.
There are major incentives to center your diet on real foods as opposed to "food products" like the ones sold at Taco Bell and other fast-food outlets, the primary one being it is essential for optimal health. Real foods also taste delicious, and when bought from sustainable sources help to protect the environment. It's actually very easy to tell the difference. Real food almost always has the following characteristics:
- Variable quality
- Spoils fast
- Requires preparation
- Vibrant colors, rich textures
- Authentically flavorful
- Strong connection to land and culture
"Food products," meanwhile, tend to have these traits:
- Produced, manufactured
- Neat, convenient
- Always the same
- Keeps forever
- Instant results
- Dull, bland
- Artificially flavorful
- No connection to land or culture
Gizmodo posted a photo of what appears to be the label from a package of Taco Bell's taco meat filling, and you can see very clearly that it meets the definition for a food product, not a real food. The first clue?
Its excessively long list of ingredients, which are also listed right on Taco Bell's Web site:
"Beef, Water, Seasoning [Isolated Oat Product, Salt, Chili Pepper, Onion Powder, Tomato Powder, Oats (Wheat), Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Spices, Maltodextrin, Soybean Oil (Anti-dusting Agent), Garlic Powder, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Cocoa Powder (Processed With Alkali), Silicon Dioxide, Natural Flavors, Yeast, Modified Corn Starch, Natural Smoke Flavor], Salt, Sodium Phosphates."
To be fair, Taco Bell is not alone in their creative ability to concoct "meat" out of a combination of soy lecithin, sugar, maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract, citric acid, caramel color, silicon dioxide, yeast, modified corn starch and other substances.
A large number of the ingredients in fast food meals from any establishment exist nowhere in nature. Take a look at the ingredients in a McDonald's hamburger bun:
"Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, enzymes), water, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, yeast, soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated soybean oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, wheat gluten, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide, soy flour), calcium propionate and sodium propionate (preservatives), soy lecithin."
Like Taco Bell's "beef," McDonald's hamburger buns are actually "bread-like" concoctions that bear no real resemblance to natural bread.
What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Fast Food?
Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock vividly demonstrated the consequences of trying to sustain yourself on a diet of fast food in his remarkable documentary, Super Size Me. The film ended up earning the Writers Guild of America award for Best Documentary Screenplay in 2005, and it's still one of the most powerful illustrations of the dangers of a fast food diet I've ever seen.
After just FOUR WEEKS, Spurlock's health had deteriorated to the point that his physician warned him he was putting his life in serious jeopardy if he continued the experiment.
His cholesterol had soared and he started suffering from depression, lack of attention, and sexual dysfunction, just to name a few of the health problems that surfaced once he traded in his normal diet for three square meals a day from McDonald's.
I also recently commented on the advertisement produced by the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that singles out McDonald's for obesity-related deaths. As the ad claims, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and heart attacks are hallmark diseases associated with a fast food diet -- a CLEAR indication that it does not provide the appropriate nutrition for your body.
Even if Taco Bell's Tacos Contain Real Meat …
It's STILL not a healthy choice, not in the least. Taco Bell claims that their "beef is 100% USDA inspected, just like the quality beef you would buy in a supermarket" … but this is not saying much.
Most commercially raised, factory-farmed meats sold in supermarkets and to fast-food restaurants are loaded with antibiotics, concentrated toxins, and disease-causing bacteria. This is not going to contribute to good health.
On the other hand, organically raised, grass-fed beef is so nutritionally superior to its factory-farmed counterpart that it can be considered a completely different food. It is organic, grass-fed beef that should be included as part of an optimally healthy diet, so until Taco Bell starts to make its tacos from organic grass-fed meat, they're a long way off from healthy.
A Truly Healthy Diet Does Not Come Quick …
To truly optimize your health, it is important to minimize processed convenience foods from fast-food restaurants altogether and instead get reacquainted with your kitchen. Learn how to cook and prepare whole food from scratch (or hire someone else to do so) so you can control exactly what ingredients you're eating.
You can prepare healthful foods relatively quickly once you're accustomed to it, but it will rarely be as fast as unwrapping a Taco Bell taco. Fortunately, what you give up in terms of time for food preparation you will regain exponentially in the form of vibrant health, and this is a wonderful trade-off.
I also recommend customizing your diet to fit your nutritional type, as once you've determined your nutritional type, you'll know which foods to add to your diet, and which to limit or avoid when cooking. Best of all, when you follow this guide you'll have a step-by-step plan for eating nutritious whole foods so you won't have to resort to fast-food restaurants -- and their questionable ingredients -- any longer.