Taco Bell Secretly Tests Lower Sodium Items, No One Notices

Fine people of the Dallas-Forth Worth area, you have been tricked! No, not about Wade Phillips being a good football coach; but about the amount of sodium in your Taco Bell.

The fast food chain revealed earlier this week that it has been testing out lower sodium items at 150 eateries in the DFW area without telling anyone — and no one noticed.

Said Taco Bell’s president and chief concept officer Greg Creed, who is curiously Australian:

One of our initiatives has been to reduce the sodium content of food across the entire menu… So we have been working very diligently over the last two years to get out 23 percent of the sodium across our menu.

The first place we actually tested this is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. So 150 restaurants over the last few months have been eating great-tasting Taco Bell food with 23-percent less sodium. And the great news is: No one even knows we’ve done it. That’s when you know you’ve been successful…

The food team back in [Taco Bell's California base of] Irvine did a great job of replacing the sodium taste with the taste of other spices and other ingredients.

Creed said that the success — or rather, lack of complaints — with the Texas test will likely lead to a nationwide roll-out of the lower sodium food.

Taco Bell testing lower-sodium menu [National Restaurant News via DallasObserver.com]

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  1. ScottyB says:

    Now if they can cut out 23% of the diarrhea…

    • Grogey says:

      Get a better system mine handles it fine.

      • Southern says:

        Agreed, I never have an upset stomach from Taco Bell. I always wonder how many people just “joke” about it and how many actually GET an upset stomach..

        • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

          From the way people blew up at me when I said I eat Bento lunches at room temperature (instead of keeping chilled or heating up), I think I’ve just been blessed with a strong GI system.

          (hey hey, a physical attribute I can actually be happy about!)

          • RvLeshrac says:

            Unless you include uncooked/smoked/processed sashimi or sushi in them, there’s no reason to not eat them at room temperature. As long as you don’t mean “Left them at room temperature overnight.”

        • The Marionette says:

          I’m sure a lot just joke about it or are jumping on the diarrhea band wagon. It’s always taco bell and white castles that I hear people say it gives them the runs, but somehow, by some magic I never do when I eat. I guess I have a better internal system than them.

      • EWU_Student says:

        Anyone else crap like a goose after eating Subway? That’s the fast food that does it for me…but maybe that’s just weird.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    There are five tacos in that photo! Who can eat that much? That is easily 1,000 calories.

    • Tim says:

      Perhaps, but it’s only 2000 mg of sodium!

      • fatediesel says:

        I had a friend in college that would go to Taco Bell every Friday and Saturday after bar close and get 10 tacos, and this guy wasn’t even overweight. A Taco Bell taco isn’t very filling.

        • nbs2 says:

          Indeed. I used to spend $3.97 at Del Taco on Tuesdays when I was in college (3/99 cents). I can still polish off 10 regular tacos, no problem. The food there is too calorie dense – to feel satisfied on their tacos, you end up with many more calories than needed.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I think most people could. Not as filling as you’d hope.

    • Bativac says:

      I am a 31 year old man of average height and weight and I can put away 4 to 5 soft tacos in one sitting. They are not very filling. A spoonful of meat, another spoonful of cheese, some lettuce and a squirt of sauce…

      I don’t always eat fast food, but when I do, it’s Taco Bell.

    • Nogard13 says:

      Not if they’re crunchy tacos, fresco style. At 150 calories each, that’s only 750 calories, quite a bit less than a Big Mac and medium fries (540 + 380 = 920 calories).

    • DeepHurting says:

      I can eat five tacos in my sleep. There’s like a teaspoon of “filling” in each one.

    • ngoandy says:

      I was in Big Rapids Michigan and watched nearly every customer ordered a grande meal of 10 tacos, some ordered extra items.

    • moonunitrappa says:

      I sub beans for meat and it becomes a half disc of lead. I can only eat two. 10? My God.

    • Snaptastic says:

      I eat well over a thousand calories when I grab lunch at Taco Bell. My last lunch there consisted of 2 5-layer burritos, a nacho cheese chalupa and a cheese roll-up. According to the nutrition calculator, that’s 1620 calories. I also eat breakfast, so I’m not staving myself prior to this.

      I’m a 30 year old human hummingbird that usually thrives on caffeine,sugar and lots of exercise. :-9

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Been saying this for years. Restaurants put far too much “flavor” in their foods.

    If they made products with less salt and fat, I would actually enjoy their taste better. Right now it’s far too intense for my taste.

    • Tim says:

      It’s more like they put in a ton of salt, oil, sugar, etc., because it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than putting in real spices and other flavors.

      • ARP says:

        It also covers up the fact that they use poor quality ingredients. If they used better beef, chicken, etc. you wouldn’t have to salt and spice the hell out of it to taste good. However, then it wouldn’t be as cheap.

    • Kopiok says:

      Are… are you a supertaster?

      • RvLeshrac says:

        When asked, 99% of people claim to be “supertasters,” and they can “clearly tell” when something has changed (less salt, HFCS/Sugar, removal/addition of trans-fats).

        Of course, 98.9% of those people are lying.

  4. EmanNeercs says:

    I hate to admit it… but I love me some taco bell. Sure, I’ll pay for it a second time later in the bathroom, but so help me there is nothing more delicious than a cheesy gordita crunch. So, Taco Bell, I salute your efforts!

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      “…but so help me there is nothing more delicious than a cheesy gordita crunch.”

      Yes yes oh yes.

    • rdm says:

      Yes. Cheesy Gordita Crunch ftw.

    • grapedog says:

      They changed something else with the flavor of their beef too, though I don’t think it has anything to do with sodium content, the beef just tastes different. I also live in Texas, but about 3 hours south of Dallas, and the difference in taste cannot be salt. Plus, they changed the way their pepsi dispenses, so it adds more syrup. Ugg, it was already too sweet to begin with. I started brining cans of coke with me into taco bell.

  5. PLATTWORX says:

    23 percent of the sodium? Not 20 or 25%? Did they consider 23.5%?

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      in real life, you don’t necessarily set out to remove an exact percentage of sodium.
      that is to say, the actuals might not equal your target.

    • Tim says:

      I’d imagine it’s a matter of finding what still works, what still tastes good, what still cooks well, etc., plus the average among many items.

    • mmmsoap says:

      Likely the number came out after the new menu was finalized in the test kitchen. The directive comes down “eliminate the salt”, food scientists start working. Once they have an acceptable, focus-group approved product, that’s when the marketing starts.

      This is only good-will and good-PR for Taco Bell, and pretty much any number >10% would have seemed impressive.

  6. D0rk says:

    Taco Bell is the last fast food place i’d expect to take the initiative to reduce sodium content. That stuff is bottom of the barrel quality.

    • Griking says:

      Yeah, because they use fake lettuce, tomatoes, beans, etc… right?

      • Snaptastic says:

        My thoughts exactly. At least Taco Bell will rot when left out for several days…*cough*McDonalds*cough*

        • RvLeshrac says:

          Yup. People jump on the Hate-Taco-Bell bandwagon just like they jumped on the Hate-Arbys and hate-KFC bandwagons, despite all of them having substantially higher quality food than McDonalds.

    • mrstu says:

      Eh, you get what you pay for… it’s cheap food, but it’s priced cheap, and hey, if they’re trying to make it at least marginally less unhealthy, more power to them.

  7. GWC3 says:

    Gah!
    Bad split infinitive. He’s not a person “who is curiously Australian.” He is a person “who, curiously, is Australian.”

    /grammar nerd

    • drbtx1 says:

      That is not an infinitive.

      • GWC3 says:

        You’re right, of course.

        /turns in grammar nerd card and shows self out.

      • nybiker says:

        What, actually, then is the technical name for the boo-boo of missing commas? I am not a grammar person, per se, so I truly would like to know.
        The nits I pick on are misuse of things like their/there, its/it’s, and percent/percentage.

        • asherchang2 says:

          Placement and frequency of commas has always been a stylistic choice. You could use commas to logically separate clauses or thoughts, or you could use them as a part of a hierarchy of punctuation marks which indicates pauses and their duration. Also, orthography is not even really a part of grammar.

    • RxDude says:

      How do you know he is not both curious AND Australian?

  8. dulcinea47 says:

    So are they just going on the fact that they didn’t get any complaints? Or did they actually ask the people after they ate it if they thought it was good, tasted like it usually does, etc.

    • nbs2 says:

      I suspect a combination of lack of complaints and no statistically significant failure to meet sales targets.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      There’s usually a window of quality at Taco Bell. Sometimes I get something and it’s the most delicious incarnation of 6 basic ingredients, other times it’s a gelatinous mass in which the 6 ingredients morphed into some kind of macro-ingredient.

      Even though they make to order, I think it has something to do with the pot life of their ingredients when they’re unsealed/reheated.

    • Griking says:

      This was my thought. Just because people didn’t complain doesn’t mean that it tasted just as good, it just means people didn’t complain.

    • SuperSnackTime says:

      That would actually be a flawed approach (direct asking). No one eats a Taco Bell anything and consciously thinks “how is my saltiness enjoyment factor right now?”. If you ask them directly (whether prior to eating or post-eating) you are making them change into a frame of mind that is inconsistent with their actual normal Taco Bell consumption ritual. Bad data.

      As suggested before, some combination of: no complaints, sales targets being hit, and (against what I just said) some sort of more formal laboratory-style testing, they are confident with their results.

  9. Emperor Norton I says:

    Now if only In-N-Out would cut the sodium in its burgers!
    650mg in the plain burger.

  10. MickeyMoo says:

    The use of the nebulous phrase “”other” ingredients” causes me concern…

    • mykie says:

      Same here…

      “Other spice and other ingredients” could mean something far worse than sodium…

      • RvLeshrac says:

        “Other spices and ingredients” means “We’re not telling you precisely what ingredients, and in what ratios, we add to our food because – NEWS FLASH – we’re not the only mexican fast-food chain which exists in the world, and we’d like to continue existing.”

    • Razor512 says:

      Did you know that dried battery acid taste salty? it is also cheaper than salt.

      Guess what taco bell means by “other” ingredients

  11. Grebdioz says:

    It’s difficult to notice, much less complain, about a slight flavor change when you’re drunk at 2 AM.

  12. Hoss says:

    Some of their offerings have a full day’s worth of sodium. But I guess if they can cut out 500 mg sodium, that’s a good start.

    Taco Bell Nutrition: http://www.tacobell.com/nutrition/information

  13. cmdr.sass says:

    Taco Bell customers are not known for their discriminating palates. I’m not surprised they didn’t notice.

  14. daemonaquila says:

    Huh. I think I did try that. It tasted crappier than normal, but I figured it was just because I had been eating real Mexican food for months since my last trip through Taco Hell.

  15. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    And now the reason that Taco Bell is the only restaurant to survice the Franchise Wars is revealed.

  16. djanes1 says:

    Did he cut the sodium by replacing the salt with Vegemite?

  17. Mknzybsofh says:

    I for one am very happy about this! WTG Taco Bell!

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      Same! We get Taco Bell maybe twice a month (though I want some now after reading this article) and this makes me feel a little less guilty about it. Or at least, it will when it rolls out to the VA markets…

  18. cjcharv says:

    This is the reason I stopped eating Taco Bell. I may give it another shot knowing they reduced the sodium.

  19. Anonymously says:

    The customers probably just added it back with more sauce.

  20. UnicornMaster says:

    I am happy to see this trend. Campbell’s is now doing soup with sea salt. All the flavor and less sodium. People used to use salt to fix everything. I’m glad they’re being conscientious.

  21. quail says:

    Lord, how I miss DFW. It’s a place where Taco Bell isn’t even considered Mexican food. Want good, fast taco? Visit a Tin Star or go to Chipotle. There’s also Two Pesos and Taco Cabana. And I know that there’s more in the mom & pop variety too. Little taco shops where gringos are lucky to find and work hard to keep their mouth shut about unless the place is over run by foodies looking for the next hot restaurant.

    Taco Bell. Don’t make me laugh…. meh.

  22. JKulp42757 says:

    Taco Bell is probably the most disgusting fast food restaurant there is. Burger King would also be high on the list.

    And it seems I always see the same clientele eating there, teenagers through early twenties. I guess there taste buds haven’t matured yet, I don’t know….but it’s gross.

    If I want Mexican, I’ll go to a Mexican restaurant, not Taco Bell. If I want a good burger or chicken sandwich, there are many, many places I’d go before Burger King.

  23. barbie0114 says:

    This is a “good” thing. Hope individuals aren’t mad at Taco Bell. They want to still offer quality fast food but keep the consumer healthy as well. Good for you, Taco Bell…keep up the good work!

  24. pot_roast says:

    Awesome. Now I can eat even more Taco Bell grub without feeling guilty.

  25. EcPercy says:

    I tried their taco seasoning mix that you can buy in the store… it was so salty I felt sick…

    I just bought the spices needed to make my own mix… All it takes is: Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Chili Powder, Paprika, Cumin, Oregano, Water, and 1lb of Ground Beef.

    I will stick with that… no need for a fast food place. :D