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Taco Bell’s History of Food Scandals

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    Today people are more and more aware of what they are eating. To the majority of people the quality of food has become a more important issue than price. This gave birth to a lot of scandals related to product quality and standards. One of the most popular the Mexican-themed fast food brand is Taco Bell, which was established in 1954 as the first Taco Drive-in. In 1962 the first Taco Bell restaurant was opened in Downey, CA. In 1978, 868 Taco Bell restaurants were sold to PepsiCo Inc, making them the owners of this chain.

    Like many other American fast-food brands, Taco Bell has its own history that has been marked with a series of scandals related to their food quality and safe sanitation guidelines. The latest Taco Bell scandal emerged in February, 2012 when in ten America’s states some unidentified ingredients caused the foodborne illness. In 2000 Taco Bell Company became involve in the scandal as the first company in U. S. history which used food products made from contaminated genetically modified organisms.

    In the years of 2007 and 2006 they were blamed for usage of contaminated lettuce that sickened 71 people, and spinach that was contaminated with E. coli that killed three people and sickened 200 others. However, the most famous Taco Bell scandal was in 2011, when the Company was surrounded by accusations concerning the quality of their beef. The claims in a lawsuit were referred to Taco Bell’s false “Beefy crunch burrito” advertisement. The accusation statement suggested that Taco Bell’s “seasoned beef” consists of only 36 percent of the real beef, instead of almost 90 percent as they claimed (Aronica, 2011).

    Main Activists The main activists in the “Where’s the beef? ” scandal were Montgomery law firm, United States Department of Agriculture and Stephen Colbert, the famous political satirist. Taco Bell and its supporters are on the other side of the barricade. The United States Department of Agriculture is the federal executive department responsible for developing as well as executing the government policy on farming, agriculture, and food. The United States Department of Agriculture seeks to meet the needs of farmers, o promote agricultural trade and production, assure food safety, protect natural resources, foster rural communities and end hunger in the United States and even abroad. It maintains its strong leadership on food, agriculture and other related issues based on public policy through efficient management and best available science (White House Government, 2012). Stephen Collbert is a well-known American political satirist and an active public figure who is the host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” TV show.

    Stephen Colbert plays a very important role in this conflict as he reveals it to the greater public in one of “The Colbert Report” episodes. He is considered to be a very influential person in America (named among “100 Most Influential People” by Times in 2012) and, therefore, his involvement in the “Where is the beef? ” conflict has truly popularized the issue. “Where is the beef? ” conflict was named one of the most famous in fast food industry in America. Stephen Colbert has built his career on roughly a critique of all more or less important political or social issues in America.

    His book I Am America (And So Can You! ) was No. 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list. In the minds of American people he is truly an advocacy of the crowd and, therefore, his satiric critique of Taco Bell’s beef in 2011 spurred a great degree of rage against Taco Bell within the American society. It would take Taco Bell a long time to regain the trust of an ordinary American (Rabin, 2006). Montgomery law firm, which is now known as Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P. C. represents plaintiffs and claimants in civil litigation.

    They are one of the country’s leading firms involved in civil litigation on behalf of claimants, having represented hundreds of thousands of people. They have a national reputation for being at the forefront of Consumer Litigation. In keeping with this, the firm publishes a monthly consumer news report – The Jere Beasley Report – that goes to more than 58,000 households. Additionally, each week the company features their attorneys, guest attorneys and community leaders on The Beasley Allen Report. This hour-long program is broadcast on WSFA-TV12 each Sunday evening following the 10 o’clock news.

    Programs also are available on the YouTube channel at www. youtube. com/BeasleyAllen (jdOasis, 2012). The Sequence of Events In 2011 January 24 Alabama Montgomery law firm together with a California law firm sued Taco Bell for using false advertising in its new advertising campaign for “Beefy Crunch Burrito”. The suit was filed on behalf of the single Californian client. The Alabama law firm does not ask for monetary compensation, they want Taco Bell to admit the false claim in their advertisement.

    On the same day Alabama Montgomery law firm requested the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which regulates the country\s meat supply to enter the scene and provide more information on beef standards in the United States. USDA conclusions were based on the label that was on the raw meat that came from the supplier to Taco Bell warehouses. According to the label which said “Caramel flavor and bacon smell” on “taco meat filling” packages USDA concluded that these products cannot be called “beef”.

    On January 25, 2011 USDA forces Taco Bell to have at least 40 % real meat in their ”taco meat filling” which must be labeled with the product name including the word “filling” or change the ingredients. According to U. S. Department of Agriculture minimally processed products can be counted as “natural”; however, in order to be labeled as “natural” the product cannot contain any additives: no artificial flavoring, coloring or preservative (White House Government, 2012).

    On January 25, 2011 Taco Bell claimed: “We buy our beef from the same trusted brands you find in the supermarket, like Tyson Foods”. One day later they state that their product contains 88% quality USDA inspected beef and the rest 12% is seasoning and other ingredients that provide taste, moisture, and texture. The Taco Bell CEO on the same day claims that “the lawyers intend to sue first and ask questions later”, that is why according to the CEO they got the facts “completely wrong”. On January 28, 2011 Taco Bell start a “Thank You for suing us! campaign and other talk campaigns that include PETA. PETA acts as a supporter of Taco Bell as it is against beef in general and welcomes the fact that there are synthetic materials rather than real meat used in tacos. Taco Bell spends 4 million dollars on advertising and recreation of the corporate image in public eyes. The National Advertising Campaign goes by the slogan “Real employees. Real Seasoned Beef. Unreal Offer. ” Strangely enough, USDA being the governmental representative, on February 2, 2011 withdraws from the conflict and claims that “we don’t regulate how companies advertise beef”.

    In February 2011 the Taco Bell lawsuit went all pop culturey. A lot of talk shows addressing this conflict were aired on TV, articles on this topic appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Stephen Colbert was one of the most influential political satirists who had brought this issue to the public. “The Colbert Report” on false advertising was launched on February 4, 2011. On February 9, 2011 Taco Bell offered free Taco Coupons in order to regain the trust of its customers.

    On April 19, 2011 the lawsuit was withdrawn by Alabama Montgomery law firm. The law firm concludes that “it is not illegal”. It was ambiguous where the meat samples came from and the whole case was dropped. Taco Bell launched the advertising campaign that “Taco Meat is actually Meat”. Taco Bell publicly asks the attorneys: “Would it kill you to say you are sorry? ” Discussion In 2011, Taco Bell – one of the most popular the Mexican-themed fast food restaurant chains in America, got involved in a scandal while promoting one of their products.

    The advertisement claiming that Taco-Bell’s “seasoned beef” consists of almost 90 percent of the real beef was attacked by several interest groups – the Montgomery law firm, United States Department of Agriculture and even the famous Stephen Colbert. The opposing claim was that Taco-Bell had lied in their advertising campaign and that Taco-Bell’s “seasoned beef” consists of only 36 percent of the real beef. Taco-bell got sued and its image was in serious danger as they launched several damage control campaigns in order to protect their reputation (“Thank you for suing us! ”, free coupons, etc. . In the end, the company seems to come clean from this scandal as both the Montgomery law firm and the USDA withdrew their accusations. During the scandal 3 mln fans on Facebook launched the supporting video for Taco Bell. So, not everyone was convinced of Taco Bell’s guilt. Nevertheless, there is plenty of room for speculation as the scandal was over and dealt with uncharacteristically quickly.


    Taco Bell’s history of food scandals. The Daily Meal. Retrieved on October 21,2012 from http://www. thedailymeal. com/taco-bells-history-food-scandals White House Government. The Executive Branch. (2012). Retrieved from http://www. whitehouse. gov/our-government/executive-branch on 18 October, 2012 Taco Bell. History. Retrieved on October 21,2012 from http://www. tacobell. com/Company Rabin, Nathan (January 25, 2006). “Stephen Colbert interview”. The A. V. Club (The Onion). Retrieved July 10, 2006. Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P. C. Company | jdOasis. com. (n. d. ). Welcome | jdOasis. com. Retrieved October 23, 2012, from http://www. jdoasis. com/company/beasley-allen-crow-methvin-portis-miles-pc

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