Nothing unusual about Taco Bell’s meat, experts say
Ingredients what you’d expect from fast-food restaurants; no advertising rules broken
By Gregory Karp and Ellen Gabler, Tribune reporters
February 2, 2011
Soy lecithin (is) a byproduct of soy bean processing that is used as an emulsifier. That means it helps blend and bind substances that would otherwise separate like oil and water.
(A)utolyzed 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 some people experience. It gives foods a full, savory, beeflike taste, Brewer said.
Maltodextrin is derived from starches, usually corn in the United States. It can be used as a sweetener and a thickener.
Isolated oat product is a binder, kind of like how an egg is used in homemade hamburgers or meatballs so they don’t fall apart in the pan. And soybean oil is 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 is caramelized sugar used to give the mixture a consistent brown appearance, Brewer said. Heating some of the ingredients, such as cocoa powder and chili pepper, causes them to change colors and potentially combine to turn the mixture a hue the customer wouldn’t like, she said. It doubles as a flavor component. Flavor experts identify caramel as a component flavor of beef that can be lost in processing, said Betsy Booren, director of scientific affairs for the American Meat Institute.
“Natural smoke flavor” can be added by burning wood chips, capturing the smoke and piping it into the oven where meat is cooking, similar to how you burn wood chips to give smoky flavor to meats on a backyard grill, Booren said. The same aroma 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, she said.