Taco Bell threatens to sue over beef lawsuit

Woman claims chain falsely advertises taco meat as beef

Taco Bell threatened legal action Tuesday against a woman who is suing the chain for what she claims is false advertising surrounding its taco meat.

Amanda Obney alleges that Taco Bell’s meat actually includes “extenders” and other non-meat substances, according to her lawsuit, which was filed last week in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California Southern Division.

She contends that Taco Bell’s “seasoned ground beef,” or “seasoned beef,” is actually a substance known as ‘taco meat filling,” which includes extenders such as isolated oat product, water, wheat, oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch and sodium phosphate, in addition to beef and seasonings.

Irvine, Calif.-based Taco Bell fired back Tuesday, saying the lawyers in the case “got their ‘facts’ absolutely wrong,” and that the company would take legal action for the “false statements being made about our food.”

Greg Creed, president and chief concept officer of Taco Bell Corp., said in a statement that the chain buys its beef from “the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods.”

“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,” he said.

Taco Bell identifies all the seasoning and spice ingredients on its website, Creed added.

“Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later — and got their ‘facts’ absolutely wrong,” he said.

Obney’s suit alleges that Taco Bell refers to its seasoned ground beef as “taco meat filling” internally, but not in advertising. She is seeking an unspecified amount in relief and is asking that Taco Bell launch a corrective advertising campaign to “educate the public about the true content of its food products.” She also is pushing for class-action status for her suit on behalf of other consumers who may have eaten at Taco Bell.

The law firm representing Obney — Blood Hurst & O'Reardon LLP in San Diego — claims on its website that it specializes in class-action lawsuits that "obtain recoveries" and "correct corporate wrongdoing."

The firm also represented plaintiffs in a class-action suit against gum maker Wrigley, charging false advertising related to a "natural germ killing" ingredient in Eclipse brand gum and mints. In other cases, the firm challenged Dannon's advertising claims about probiotic bacteria in its Activia and DanActive yogurt products and questioned health claims made by General Mills that eating Cheerios could lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]