Since the news broke about the lawsuit alleging that Taco Bell's ground beef doesn't meet the USDA's definition of "ground beef," there has been a lot of speculation about exactly what percentage of the taco filling is actually made up of non-meat ingredients. But what's been left out of the discussion is a closer look at what those extra recipe items are doing there.
Over at the Chicago Tribune, they spoke to a professor at the University of Illinois to find out what these ingredients are.
*Soy lecithin: A byproduct of soy bean processing that is used as an emulsifier... helps blend and bind substances that would otherwise separate like oil and water.
* Autolyzed yeast extract: Made by breaking down yeast cells with salt, it's a flavor-enhancing additive similar to monosodium glutamate (MSG), without the known side effects of MSG... gives foods a full, savory, beeflike taste.
* Maltodextrin: Derived from starches, usually corn... It can be used as a sweetener and a thickener.
* Isolated oat product: A binder, kind of like how an egg is used in homemade hamburgers or meatballs so they don't fall apart in the pan.
* Soybean oil: Used as a so-called anti-dusting agent, meaning it prevents finely ground, powdery ingredients from literally billowing into the air, as would happen if you clapped flour-coated hands.
*Caramel color: Caramelized sugar used to give the mixture a consistent brown appearance.... Doubles as a flavor component.
* "Natural smoke flavor": Can be added by burning wood chips, capturing the smoke and piping it into the oven where meat is cooking... Can also be captured in a viscous liquid that can later be sprayed onto meat to give it a smoky flavor, the method probably used for ground beef.
The big question asked of the professor is whether or not anything on the ingredients list is out of the ordinary or should give consumers pause: "Nope. It's exactly what I would expect."
There are a number of ways to let an establishment know that you are unhappy with the service that it provides. Do not, however, follow the example of a 75-year-old Idaho woman who deposited ketchup, mayonnaise, maple syrup, and other sticky condiments in her local library's book drop, destroying books and evading capture. She recently plead guilty to the crime, and will serve one month in jail.
The woman was not caught until Boise police staked out the book drop and caught her in the act. According to the police, she attacked the city's libraries more than ten times.