Fast food is one of our pet peeves here at FoodFacts.com. We try to keep up with the newest introductions from the major chains and bring our community members the facts about nutritional content and ingredients. Those reports generally aren’t positive – and this one is no different.
Today we’re talking about Taco Bell beef. Shouldn’t be a tremendous problem, should it? But sometimes beef isn’t simply beef. Taco Bell admits that its product is 88 percent beef. Read below to find out what makes up the other 12 percent:
According to Taco Bell’s website, the company says that the mystery ingredients have “weird names” but they’re “all safe and approved by the FDA,” ABC News reports.
“Each ingredient helps make our Seasoned Beef taste great. Many of them are items you might use at home such as salt, peppers, and spices. Ingredients like oats and sodium phosphates help make sure the texture is right,” Taco Bell officials said.
The company also said it uses only USDA-inspected, “100 percent premium real beef” and no monosodium glutamate, or MSG, which is a flavor enhancer.
“We believe it’s important that consumers make informed decisions about what they eat, and so for many years have provided details of our ingredients on our website,” Rob Poetsch, Taco Bell spokesman, told ABCNews.com.
Here are some of the ingredients and what Taco Bell has to say about them:
“It sounds weird, but it’s actually a form of mildly sweet sugar we use to balance the flavor. You may have had it the last time you had a natural soda,” Taco Bell says.
2. TORULA YEAST
“This is a form of yeast that gives our seasoned beef a more savory taste,” the company says.
3. MODIFIED CORN STARCH
“Actually, it’s derived from corn, which is a food staple in Mexican culture as well as many others. We use a small amount as a thickener and to maintain moisture in our seasoned beef. It’s common in many foods like yogurt,” Taco Bell states.
4. SOY LECITHIN
“When you prepare as much seasoned beef as we do, you don’t want it to separate. That’s what soy lecithin does. It helps (with moisture) to bind substances that would otherwise separate — like oil and water. It’s a common ingredient in many grocery staples, like chocolate bars and salad dressings,” says Taco Bell.
5. SODIUM PHOSPHATES
Taco Bell says it uses this “to help make sure our seasoned beef is the right texture.”
“They’re also commonly found in deli items, cheeses, coffee drinks and desserts,” the company says.
6. LACTIC ACID
Taco Bell says, “This safe acid occurs in almost all living things, and we use a very small amount to manage the acidity to get the right flavor.”
7. CARAMEL COLOR AND COCOA POWDER
Taco Bell says the caramel color “is caramelized sugar, which is a commonly used food coloring (also found in cereals and pancake syrup). Cocoa Powder doesn’t add any flavor to our recipe, but it helps our seasoned beef maintain a rich color.”
Taco Bell: “It’s a naturally occurring sugar that we use to improve the taste of our seasoned beef.”
We were especially disturbed by Taco Bell’s explanation of caramel color because it isn’t simply caramelized sugar. Two of the four types of caramel color used in food products contain known carcinogens, so the simple term “caramelized sugar” is truly misleading.
In addition, that statement about Taco Bell providing detailed ingredient information on their website … well, we guess that really depends on your idea of detailed. This is what we found on their site regarding their seasoned beef: made with 100% premium beef, seasoned with our signature recipe. We don’t see any ingredient details in that statement.
FoodFacts.com is (as could be expected) not excited about Taco Bell’s detailed statement regarding the ingredients in their beef. We actually expect beef to be just that … beef. And we expect seasonings to be things like salt, cayenne pepper, chili peppers, garlic, cilantro or any of a host of other actual seasoning. We’re pretty certain that most in our community feel the same. A little ingredient insight goes a long way. Taco Bell can do better. Consumers deserve it.