TIME Food & Drink

What’s Really in Taco Bell Beef

A full 12% of Taco Bell's 88% beef is made of what the company calls its "special recipe." What makes the recipe so special? Certain ingredients known as "Maltodextrin" and "Trehalose" and "Torula Yeast"

Taco Bell

The seasoned beef recipe section of Taco Bell’s website is going viral this week, as ABC News, USA Today, and Business Insider claim the page has been updated with colloquial explanations of the recipe, which is 88% “premium beef”, while the other 12% is called “Signature Recipe.”

The page is clearly intended to put an end to rumors that Taco Bell beef is “Grade D” meat once and for all. In fact, in 2011, a lawsuit alleged Taco Bell beef was only 35% beef according to lab tests, but it was dropped.

The website also hopes to make consumers less afraid of ingredients that are “hard to pronounce” and assure them that they are FDA-approved. For example, joking that potassium chloride “sounds like a science experiment,” the site explains, “We actually used it to help reduce the amount of salt used in our seasoned beef recipe.”

Some of the other explanations:

  • Soy Lecithin: “It helps (with moisture) to bind substances that would otherwise separate – like oil and water. It’s a common ingredient in many grocery staples, like chocolate bars and salad dressings.”
  • Maltodextrin: “It sounds weird, but it’s actually a form of mildly sweet sugar we use to balance the flavor. You may have had it the last time you had a natural soda.”
  • Torula Yeast: “This is a form of yeast that gives our seasoned beef a more savory taste.”
  • Trehalose: “It’s a naturally occurring sugar that we use to improve the taste of our seasoned beef.”

A chemist named Derek Lowe told ABC News he has no problem with any of the ingredients. Registered dietician Katherine Tallmadge also said the ingredients are safe in a USA Today interview, but emphasized the importance of reading ingredients on food labels in general.

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