By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director
At the end of January 2012, Taco Bell® announced that it will debut eleven new breakfast menu items as a FirstMeal™ in approximately 750 restaurants located in ten western states, including California and Colorado. Currently, FirstMeal™ is offered only during the morning. By the end of 2012, FirstMeal™ will be available along with late-night FourthMeal™ offerings. Taco Bell® locations in the eastern US will begin carrying FirstMeal™ in 2013.
The VRG asked a quality assurance manager at Taco Bell® corporate headquarters to tell us more about the FirstMeal™ menu items. We learned that the new hash brown is all-vegetable. It does not contain natural flavors of animal or dairy origin. Hash browns are fried in “canola oil” in a fryer designated “only for grains and potatoes.” Hash browns may be ordered separately.
Hash browns are prepared in the same fryer as the Cinnabon Delights™ which contain dairy and eggs (see below). Red Strips™, which contain carmine (an insect-derived color), are also cooked in the fryer. We were told by the quality assurance manager that “most stores only have one fryer and if there are two, then they would be used for all products; there are not any segregation/dedicated fryers. We do not have microwaves.”
Among the new items, the burritos may be ordered without a meat product, eggs, and/or cheese. (Beans are not part of the new breakfast line. The VRG was told that “stores are not required to have [beans] on hand during breakfast.” For later-day menu items at Taco Bell®, beans do not contain meat flavorings; are prepared away from meat items; and may be ordered without cheese.) The same tortilla used for standard menu items is used for FirstMeal™ burritos. Its ingredients are listed on the Taco Bell® website and appear to be all-vegetable. Its distilled monoglycerides are derived from “vegetable oil” according to the Taco Bell® quality assurance manager.
FirstMeal™ scrambled eggs “are an [optional] component of a breakfast item [burrito], and not advertised as being a separate menu item.” We were also informed that the quality assurance office had “…received information from the supplier that the artificial and natural flavor in the eggs is butter.”
The optional cheeses served with breakfast items are the same cheeses offered with later- day offerings, and, so, their ingredients are listed on the Taco Bell® website. The VRG was told that “cheddar and the three-cheese blend” are in breakfast menu items. The source of the enzyme used to make the cheeses is “yeast.”
FirstMeal™ Cinnabon Delights™ contain milk and eggs. They cannot be ordered without the dairy-containing cream cheese-filled center. The Cinnabon Delights™ are fried in canola oil along with the hash browns, potato bites, nacho chips, red strips, and taco salad shells.
Tropicana® Orange Juice and Seattle’s Best Coffee® are available during FirstMeal® serving times.
The contents of this article, our website, and our other publications, including The Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements. Information does change and mistakes are always possible. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.
For more information on food served in fast food and quick service chains, see http://www.vrg.org/fastfoodinfo.htm
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