On October 15 2019, an Imgur user shared the following screenshot of a purported Newsweek article, which appeared to be reporting on a Taco Bell recall involving meat contaminated with metal shavings:
Its submitter’s title joked that “their secret sauce is melted lead,” and further down the page linked to a separate article dated October 15 2019. The Newsweek article that was in the screenshot reported:
In a statement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced that it would be recalling the seasoned beef used in Taco Bell’s burritos and tacos.
On Saturday, October 12 , Taco Bell informed FSIS that three customers had complained about finding metal shavings in their food. The USDA said nobody has been reported to have had an adverse reaction, but anyone concerned should contact a health care provider.
The beef, produced by Kenosha Beef International, was manufactured in Columbus, Ohio, and sent to five distribution centers in Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Virginia before being delivered to Taco Bell restaurants nationwide.
On October 12 2019, various Taco Bell locations stopped serving seasoned beef, leading to confusion about its sudden absence from menus:
Hey @tacobell can you guys be real about what’s going on with your beef. I love eating there and the secrecy of what’s going on makes me afraid to ever eat at your restaurant again
— ICUrn (@jeff_serenks) October 14, 2019
Still stuck on how Taco Bell out of beef😒
— Liyah🖤 (@liyaah_lovve) October 12, 2019
The recalled beef was produced between September 20 and October 4 2019, potentially affecting product in 21 states and 2.3 million pounds of beef in total. An October 15 2019 statement issued by Taco Bell explained that a single customer reported finding “a metal shaving” in their “menu item,” which led to a shutdown of the entire supply chain:
On Friday, October 11, Taco Bell took immediate action and voluntarily recalled approximately 2.3 million pounds of seasoned beef from its restaurants and distribution centers. As of 9 a.m. PDT, Monday, October 14, 2019, 100 percent of the affected restaurants in 21 states across the eastern Midwest, northern Southeast and Northeast regions impacted have confirmed product has been removed and discarded.
The states include: CT, DE, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, VA, VT, WV and Washington, D.C.
The problem was discovered when a customer reported they found a metal shaving in their menu item. To ensure the safety of our guests, the company immediately partnered with the supplier to shut down the supply chain, remove the product from restaurants and distribution centers and notify the USDA.
The product was produced at one plant location on only one of the two lines used to make seasoned beef. This product was sent to distribution centers in the following states: Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Virginia.
According to Newsweek‘s report the same day, three customers reported finding metal shavings in their food but said no adverse reactions had been reported. The recall was deemed a “Class I” by the USDA, constituting “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
In an October 14 2019 USDA/FSIS press release, the agency deemed the health risk to be “high.” FSIS referenced an “undetermined” amount of seasoned beef recalled, and indicated that there was a possibility some affected meat remained in refrigerated storage at Taco Bell locations:
Kenosha Beef International, a Columbus, Ohio establishment, is recalling an undetermined amount of seasoned beef products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically metal shavings, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today … The problem was discovered when the firm notified FSIS on Oct. 12, 2019, that it received three customer complaints.
There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.
FSIS is concerned that some product may be in restaurant refrigerators. Restaurants who have purchased these products are urged not to serve them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.
Although Imgur screeenshots are not optimal ways to convey food safety notices, a screenshot of a headline about a Taco Bell recall was accurate and current when it was posted on October 15 2019. On October 12, Taco Bell locations in some areas stopped serving seasoned beef, and the company notified FSIS that same day. Taco Bell recalled, by its count, 2.3 million pounds of beef after up to three customers discovered metal shavings in their food. Before the recall, potentially affected meat was delivered to 21 states, meaning residents of 29 states were likely unaffected by it. While the risk posed was classed as “high,” no reports of illness or injury were immediately reported.