In response to past lawsuits and a general trend towards transparency in the fast food industry, Taco Bell is now publicly displaying the not-so-secret ingredients in their famous mystery meat. According to the website, their infamous seasoned beef is 88% pure beef, 12% spices and flavors. So, what’s in the remaining 12%? Don’t worry — they have provided a new page that will explain EVERYTHING-ish. Here’s what is in the beef:
“Seasoned Beef: Beef, Water, Seasoning [Cellulose, Chili Pepper, Onion Powder, Salt, Oats (Contains Wheat), Maltodextrin (Corn, Potato, Tapioca), Soy Lecithin, Tomato Powder, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Sea Salt, Yeast Extract (Contains Gluten), Spices, Garlic Powder, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Potassium Chloride, Cocoa Powder Processed with Alkali, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Trehalose, Modified Corn Starch, Inactivated Yeast, Lactic Acid, Torula Yeast, Natural Smoke Flavor], Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Less Than 2% Beef Broth, Potassium Phosphate, Potassium Lactate. CONTAINS: SOYBEANS, WHEAT.“
Grab a packet of taco seasoning in a regular grocery store and you’d see many of the same (albeit entirely superfluous) ingredients. But disodium guanylate and inosinate, artificial flavors, sugar, caramel color? Do these really have any place in your beef? I think we can all agree that they don’t.
But, according to Taco Bell, they all have an indispensable purpose in their recipe. Taco Bell’s website now has a page that explains what all of the “funny sounding ingredients” are in their seasoned beef recipe. The page offers a multitude of terse explanations that deconstruct intimidating-sounding ingredients into layman’s terms — explanations that border on being offensively dumbed down. Take artificial flavors, for example. In response to the question “Artificial flavor? Could you be more specific?” they explained that they use “black pepper flavor” to enhance their meat. That’s it. End of story. But that leaves the food conscious reader with an important question — What the heck is black pepper flavor? Why not just use ground black pepper? According to the FDA Code of Federal Regulations,
“The term artificial flavor or artificial flavoring means any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof.“
So this black pepper flavor is not derived from black pepper, or any spice, but from some other cryptic artificial source. The plot thickens…
It is clear that this ingredient explanation is just a marketing scheme, as Taco Bell is trying to rival McDonald’s with its new breakfast line.
Speaking of breakfast, here are the ingredients for Taco Bell’s eggs:
“Eggs: Whole Eggs, Butter Flavor (Liquid And Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Beta Carotene (Color), TBHQ And Citric Acid Added To Protect Flavor, Dimethylpolysiloxane, An Anti-foaming Agent Added). Contains Less Than 1% Of The Following: Salt, Citric Acid, Pepper, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum. CONTAINS: EGGS, MILK AND SOYBEANS“
Sixteen ingredients! Those eggs are more processed and harmful than any innocent consumer might imagine. Dimethylpolysiolxane is derived from silicone. Five grams of preservative TBHQ could actually kill you.
Taco Bell’s new transparency is an attempt to appear more natural and edible to increase sales, especially after 2011′s 35% beef debacle. But Taco Bell’s menu is still riddled with artificial colorings and flavorings, GMOs, and preservatives, like TBHQ. Try as they might, these things will never be “good to eat” and can be downright harmful. Not to mention the certainly factory-farmed beef, pumped with GMOs and antibiotics, contributing to our obesity and climate crises.
Taco Bell may seem more forthright, but don’t be fooled by their lighthearted, jovial explanations. Of course all of their food is edible. But just because you can eat it doesn’t mean you should. The longer the ingredients list, no matter what the food, the more processed it is. Generally speaking, you are better off eating more whole foods. Whole foods help you thrive while processed unnatural foods lead to inflammation. Suffice to say, if you avoid processed foods and artificial ingredients, you’ll “live más.”