- Taco Bell recalled 2.3 million pounds of seasoned beef from 21 states this week after a customer found metal shavings in his/her menu item. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service was alerted after three customers complained, according to CBS News.
- The recalled beef was used for tacos and burritos and was produced by Kenosha Beef in Columbus, Ohio, between Sept. 20 and Oct. 4.
- "As soon as we received the first consumer complaint, we immediately acted to remove the product from the affected restaurants and proactively worked with the supplier to inform the USDA of our steps to protect our guests," Taco Bell North America president Julie Masino said in a statement.
Masino's statement about being proactive isn't convincing some of Taco Bell's customers, who allege the affected restaurants were suggesting chicken or steak as an alternative to beef before the recall was made public. One Twitter user even accused the company of "secrecy."
But the company used an abundance of caution here. The product was sent to distribution centers in just five states, while the chain recalled beef from 21 states. The USDA reports that there have been no confirmed adverse reactions to the product.
This recall will undoubtedly weigh on the chain's sales in the short-term. The company serves 290 million pounds of ground beef each year, CNBC reports, and its crunchy and soft tacos are its top-two sellers, according to Thrillist.
Notably, this is not the first time Taco Bell has experienced a food safety issue. In 2006, an E. coli outbreak traced to the restaurant put pressure on sales for nearly a year, according to CNBC.
In 2011, Taco Bell navigated a "mystery meat" crisis in which a class action suit was filed claiming the chain's seasoned beef wasn't "beefy enough to be called beef," according to NPR. While the company didn't lose the suit, it did pay between $3 million and $4 million to manage its reputation.
The timing here, however, is a bit more challenging as it comes on the heels of a nine-day tortilla shortage over the summer. Although that shortage didn't affect sales significantly, according to the company, two back-to-back shortages will undoubtedly affect its reputation. However, as Chipotle taught us when it navigated an extensive food safety crisis, Taco Bell's quick response may help it recover quickly.