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Video: Lawsuit asks Taco Bell: ‘Where’s the beef?'

  1. Closed captioning of: Lawsuit asks Taco Bell: ‘Where’s the beef?'

    >>> much beef is in taco bell 's beef tacos? not nearly enough according to a lawsuit that accuses them of false advertising . tom costello has details.

    >> reporter: it's a class action suit on behalf of a california consumer claiming taco bell 's beef tacos and burritos aren't really beef or not enough beef. not true, says taco bell , and it may sue for claims it says are false. for mexican fast food fans the if a cobell products sure look tasty.

    >> it's taco bell 's new five layer burrito.

    >> reporter: but a lawsuit claims they are not honest about ingredients. in the words of a 1980s commercial --

    >> where's the beef?

    >> reporter: the suit alleges they have less than 35% ground beef with the rest made up with fillers, seasoning, oat product, sodium phosphate, corn starch and other ingredients.

    >> consumers have the right to make an informed choice when buying a product from a company.

    >> reporter: attorney dee miles won't say how or why the testing was done or who did it. but taco bell denies the allegations telling nbc news, we buy beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket. we start with 100% usda inspected beef. unfortunately the lawyers elected to sue first and ask questions later and got their facts absolutely wrong. it's now threatening its own legal action , but we found very few people who had a beef with taco bell 's beef.

    >> it's taco bell . you know, you pay 99 cents for beef tacos. i don't expect ground sirloin.

    >> it's tasty enough with hot sauce and stuff.

    >> reporter: for years there have been concerns about ingredients in fast food .

    >> you have to work hard to find commercial meat products that haven't had something done to it or added to it that you would find unpleasant.

    >> reporter: including a hamburger additive known as pink slime as exposed in "food inc." it's treated with ammonia to kill e. coli . the goal is to increase profits and keep fast food cheap.

    >> it should be a source of nutrition but that's not usually the primary goal.

    >> i don't think they are as open what about what we are eating as they should be. sometimes ignorance is bliss .

    >> that's the view of the crew in the studio. back to the case. the attorneys suing say the tacos have less than 35% ground beef . we asked the usda what is the definition of ground beef . it says ground beef must have no more than 30% fat and meat filling must be at least 40% fresh meat . food for thought , meredith.

    >> thank you very much. madeline, good morning to you.

    >> good morning.

    >> usda requirements, only 40% of meat filling has to be meat.

    >> right.

    >> why isn't it 100%?

    >> that's the big shocker that the usda has a separate category, taco meat filling. the law is 40% meat. it doesn't have to be 100. the lawsuit is alleging it's below even the low standard of 40%.

    >> to me that's a striking percentage, just 40%. the rest is something called extenders. what are we talking about with that term?

    >> extenders, fillers. it's stuff like wheat starch, oat flour, things to extend. so one pound of beef goes further. it also adds texture and flavor because you have flavorings, binders, things like soy lecithin that connect the parts to make it into something palatable. taste is key.

    >> some of the ingredients the average person wouldn't know what they are. is it harmful to health?

    >> it can be. if you have a food allergy or sensitivity to wheat, oats or soy, if you don't know it's there it can be a problem. these are approved compounds for use in the food supply . it doesn't mean they are safe for everyone. certainly you should know they are there. the websites have the ingredient ingredien ingredients, a long list of everything in the product but many people don't have access to that.

    >> what about the nutritional value?

    >> that's the big issue. if you think you are getting a serving of protein, you are getting much less. this is a problem for people who find it as a main source of protein for a nutritional boost.

    >> if you order a hamburger in a hamburger joint is only 40% of it real meat?

    >> those are different regulations. ground meat is different. that is 100% meat. when you want to look for a burger place that says 100% ground beef , no fillers, no additives. the problem here is that 100% beef means it comes from somewhere in the cow. it doesn't mean it's all lean muscle. it can be skin, other parts, different connective tissue, things that are part of the cow.

    >> you never know what you're getting but probably not ground sirloin.

    >> and you're not paying for that. as we heard in the piece, what you expect is something different. it's only confusing to the consumer if you expect more than what they are delivering.

    >> if you go to a fast food chain, words of advice?

    >> if you're looking for burger look for a place that's advertising 100% beef, no fillers, no add tifitiveadditives, start .

    >> elsewhere know they require only 40% real meat in the filling.

    >> do your homework before ordering.

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