From Taco Bell 'Meat' to Fake Syrup: A Bad Week for Stomachs

Julie Ryan Evans
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tacoFake purses used to be a consumer's biggest purchasing problem, but lately it seems buyers need to beware of fake food. No stomach is safe. From fast food to seemingly wholesome food, over and over the cover is being blown on what we think we're eating.

This week Taco Bell has been front and center on the fake food stage. The indigestion was ignited by a lawsuit claiming Taco Bell's "beef" was only 36 percent beef, which leaves a whole lot of room for non-beef ... stuff. A few rejoiced at the news, but it left many more rethinking their run for the border.

Taco Bell stands firm that their "beef" is actually beef, well, at least 88 percent of it is. The rest of it is a bunch of seasonings and spices. In a statement on the company's website, President Greg Creed  took all the taco-hatred to task and issued a spicy statement:

We are proud of the quality of our beef and identify all the seasoning and spice ingredients on our website. Unfortunately, the lawyers in this case elected to sue first and ask questions later -- and got their "facts" absolutely wrong. We plan to take legal action for the false statements being made about our food."

So now there are fake claims being made about fake food? Can't we just get some real food around here? It seems to be more and more difficult.

For example, blueberries. Yes, even those little wholesome blue balls of nutrition aren't safe. It seems they have some nasty doppelgangers -- made up of sugar and partially hydrogenated oils -- that are posing in foods you may think contain blueberries. So there may be nothing blueberry about your blueberry muffin.

McDonald's has been in trouble for Fruit and Maple Oatmeal that contains no real maple. In fact, the only trace of maple comes from extract from the bark of a tree that's a cousin to maple -- and a distant cousin at that. Those loggers up in Vermont didn't take kindly to that and called McDonald's out. Now, if you order up the oatmeal while in Vermont, you can ask for real maple syrup, and Mickey D's will provide. For anyone outside Vermont, you still get the fake stuff. 

And of course, no talk of fake food would be complete without mention of "chicken" nuggets and the infamous pink goo. Oh there's chicken in there all right, but a little more than breast and wings -- like all of it, including beak and wings. There's plenty of other stuff in there as well.

Even chocolate isn't immune. We recently learned that the average American chocolate bar only has 4-10 percent chocolate in it.

So clearly, fake food abounds, which at first seems like something about which to get outraged, for which to demand change. But information about what we eat also abounds. And today, if you're really curious about what's in the food you eat, you can find out easily. No longer do you have to write a letter, find a stamp, send it off, and wait for a reply from each company, but you can hop on the Internet and find it in a few clicks.

It's a company's job to sell food, but it's up to us to decide if we're going to put it in our bodies. Frankly, I'm a lot more worried about the food being safe than a little marketing creativity in the food titles.

I've never gone to Taco Bell thinking I was getting 100 percent top quality beef -- mainly because I like their bean burritos better, but also because I know it's cheap fast food. And honestly, I don't really want to know what's in there anyway -- just like I don't want to believe that there's any difference between my fake Gucci bag and the real deal.

Are you bothered by "fake" foods promoted by restaurants and food manufacturers?


Image via TheCulinaryGeek/Flickr

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