Taco Bell confirmed back in 2011 that its beef is made up of 88% actual beef, but now the company is explaining exactly what that mysterious other 12% is. Some of the non-beef ingredients "do have weird names," but all of them are "completely safe and approved by the FDA," Taco Bell explains on a new page titled, "What Are Those Other Ingredients?" The page goes on to explain each ingredient, like so: "Isn't cellulose a fancy term for wood?" it asks, and then answers, "Cellulose is a safe carbohydrate found in the cell walls of plants and helps with water and oil binding." Other weirdly named ingredients are used to improve taste (trehalose, maltodextrin, and torula yeast), reduce sodium levels (potassium chloride, a common salt substitute), and bind the finished product together (soy lecithin), among other things.
And then, of course, there are less-weird ingredients, like salt, pepper, and spices—although the Huffington Post finds it odd that one of the ingredients is "a black pepper flavor," rather than simply "black pepper." What about fillers? The company says it doesn't use any, and the oats that are included in the ingredient list simply help keep the beef moist. As for the 88% of the beef that is actually beef, no, it is not "Grade D"—in fact, Taco Bell notes, there is no such USDA beef grade. "We use the same quality beef used in all ground beef (like you'd find in the grocery store)," the page reads. So should you keep eating at Taco Bell? A chemist tells ABC News, "There's nothing on this list I have a problem eating." But Business Insider offers a caveat: The ingredients listed are still high in sodium and fat, and most of them are, of course, processed. (The news comes as Taco Bell's parent company prepares to launch a gourmet spin-off.)