Alabama attorney W.D. Miles is suing the fast-food chain for false advertising, alleging it mislabels its products as "beef" or "seasoned ground beef" even though it is called "taco meat filling" within the company.
The claim relies partly on regulatory language intended for manufacturers, not restaurants, The Chicago Tribune reports. There are no firm rules on what a company or restaurant can advertise as meat.
Taco Bell, based in Irvine, Calif., says its recipe is 88 percent beef and 12 percent seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says "taco meat filling" must contain at least 40 percent fresh meat and be labeled with the name including "filling." But the rule applies to manufacturers, and the USDA does not regulate what restaurants can advertise as meat, nor does the Federal Trade Commission.
Taco Bell lists various seasonings as ingredients, along with food products like soy lecithin, autolyzed yeast extract, maltodextrin, isolated oat product, soybean oil and colorings.
Kathryn Kotula, a scientist at Investigative Food Sciences in Storrs, Conn., said, "There's nothing on the list that's unusual."