Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Truth About Your Food - Taco Bell Mexican Pizza

The next post in the series, The Truth About Your Food (see Doritos, see Skittles, see Subway 9-Grain Wheat)...

What's really in...Taco Bell Mexican Pizza = 540 calories, 30g fat (8g saturated), 1,020mg sodium.
It's Italian, it's Mexican, it's...well, it's got a whopping 64 different ingredients, so it's hard to tell just what exactly it is. On the face of it, this meal doesn't look too bad. There are two pizza shells, ground beef, beans, pizza sauce, tomatoes and three cheeses. Nothing alarming, right? Even the nutritional vital signs, while high, compare favorably to most fast-food pizzas. It only gets scary when you zoom in on what it takes to stitch those pieces together. That's when you see all of those 64 smaller ingredients, including an astounding 24 in the ground beef alone. Yikes!

Now, some of those ingredients amount to little more than Mexican seasonings and spices, but there are also loads of complex compounds such as autolyzed yeast extract, maltodextrin, xanthan gum, calcium propionate, fumaric acid and silicon dioxide. Any of those sound familiar? The last one might - if you've spent any time at the beach. But chances are you normally refer to it by its common name - sand.

That's right, sand is made from fragmented granules of rock and mineral, and the most common of them is silicon dioxide, or silica. This is also the stuff that helps strengthen concrete and - when heated to extreme temperatures - hardens to create glass bottles and windowpanes.

So, why exactly does Taco Bell put sand in the Mexican Pizza? To make it taste like spring break in Cancun? No quite. As it turns out, Taco Bell adds silica to the beef to prevent it from clumping together during shipping and processing. The restaurant uses the same anti-caking strategy with the chicken, shrimp and rice.

I "love" this letter from Taco Bell...they justify adding spices and chemicals that they conveniently label "other ingredients" because plain ground beef from CAFO farms tastes boring. Perhaps if they used a better quality of meat - the kind raised humanely, grass fed without antibiotics, hormones, etc. - it wouldn't be necessary to add their "12% secret recipe".

David Zinczenko

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