Taco Bell Is Removing Their Artificial Ingredients

Taco Bell and Pizza Hut have joined McDonald’s, Subway, and Panera in promising to remove artificial ingredients from their recipes, which will leave them with, what, water?

I kid, but only sort of. For instance, here’s an amazing thing: Taco Bell uses “black pepper flavor” instead of black pepper, which I have to imagine is crazy, crazy cheap to buy in the kind of bulk a Taco Bell location would need. But they’ll also be removing artificial colors and flavors, artificial preservatives “where possible,” high-fructose corn syrup, and unsustainable palm oil from their recipes by 2017, and that’s pretty cool.

Critics are noting that, for one thing, artificial ingredients haven’t been proven to be unsafe to consume; and for another, these corporations would do far more to impact public health by reducing the amount of sugar and salt in their recipes, or by reducing portion sizes. All of which is true, of course, unless you happen to be one of those artificial-colors-gave-my-kid-Morgellon’s people.

But critics are missing the point, IMO. It’s not that I don’t eat at Taco Bell because I think artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup are bad for me. I don’t eat at Taco Bell because artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup taste like shit. I haven’t eaten a Chips Ahoy! cookie in over a decade for the same exact reason. Once you start cooking for yourself, it’s sort of hard to go back to eating food that has the weird tang of additives.

But not everyone can cook for themselves on the reg, and lots of people depend on Taco Bell and Pizza Hut and McDonald’s for their lunches and family meals. If the first baby step toward “better” food for those people isn’t healthier food but real food – like, food that grows out of the ground, tasting the way it tastes because that’s how it always has tasted and not because someone added a bunch of weird shit to it – then great. I would like everyone to have the very, very basic luxury of food that tastes like food and not like Red No. 5. I don’t know why good-tasting food that isn’t chemically altered isn’t on the to-do list for these health advocates – lord knows, they probably have the time and money to afford that luxury. This is still one step for fast food toward being more like home-made food.

So I’ll take it. First, real ingredients; next, cut down on the sugar. Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol says that “It will be the same great tasting Taco Bell that people love,” but honestly, I doubt it, and I hope not.


[Image via Shutterstock]

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