A Dietitian Weighs In On Additives In Fast Food

Taco Bell is threatening to countersue the lawyers who claim in a lawsuit that the meat in the company's menu items isn't what it's advertised to be. A group of attorneys from Alabama says Taco Bell uses so many additives that the meat can't 'legally' be considered beef — or even the more generous label of "taco filling." But does that necessarily mean the tacos, burritos, and chalupas are unfit to eat? David Pitman got in touch with a dietitian to find out.

The USDA says taco meat filling must contain at least 40 percent beef.  The attorneys suing Taco Bell say their own analysis found it fell short of that mark, at around 35 percent.  The lawyers say the rest is made up of soy, wheat, oats, seasonings, and other items that Taco Bell clearly lists on the label.

"If you look at the ingredients, there's really nothing in there that's horrible for you."

Karen Ansell is a registered dietitian, and speaks for the American Dietetic Association

"These are all, pretty much, ingredients that we would use in cooking, and are in packaged foods.   But there is the shock factor of the fact that people think they're getting beef, and they may be getting less beef than they expected."

Ansell says choosing fast food from local establishments rather than big chains is no guarantee that the meat will be of higher quality, or contain fewer additives.  She says larger companies are at least able to put nutritional information online, where it's easier to access than it may be at most smaller restaurants.

"When you're having the taco filling, and it's not 100 percent ground beef, then you really need to check the ingredient list.  Because if you have a food allergy, you just wanna make sure that there's not something in there that you might be allergic to, for example."

Ansell says the only way to ensure that meat is pure and unadulterated is to prepare it at home.

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David Pitman

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