The Real Reason The Government Investigated Taco Bell's Taco Shells

Not seeing how the sausage is made seems more helpful to the sausage maker than the sausage eater. It lets a company conceal inconvenient ingredients but hides potentially harmful facts from a consumer. For instance, if that "sausage" is chocolate, wouldn't it be helpful to know that according to ABC News, your chocolate likely contains trace amounts of crushed cockroaches which can cause asthmatic reactions in people allergic to bug bites? And if you didn't already know that, you're welcome. Speaking of bugs, Taco Bell brand taco shells sold by Kraft Foods came under government scrutiny back in the early 2000s over a controversial ingredient that can be traced back to bugs.

Unlike the chocolate cockroach example, however, people's beef with Taco Bell shells was linked to an ingredient designed to keep insects out of food. As ABC News explained, the group Genetically Engineered Food Alert alleged that genetically modified corn capable of generating its own pesticide ended up in the shells sold at supermarkets. This predictably bugged anti-GMO activists and raised the eyebrows of the FDA, which hadn't approved the corn for human consumption.

The questionable ingredient in Taco Bell's shells

The corn in question — or as critics saw it, the questionable corn, is known as StarLink. Green-lighted as livestock feed in 1998, it produced a bacterial pesticide which was meant to target the European corn borer. It's important to note foods containing similarly modified foods have gotten to FDA's okay to feed to humans. Moreover, the concern over StarLink was associated with a specific protein, Cry9C, which bore the hallmarks of an allergen.

At the time that the brouhaha brewed, there was no evidence suggesting that the corn was harmful, except, of course, to corn borers. But in the absence of hindsight, the glaringly obvious rebuttal would have been that the absence of evidence wasn't evidence of absence.

Nonetheless, CBS reported that Kraft Foods, which sold the Taco Bell brand shells at supermarkets, ordered a recall after confirming that they did indeed contain StarLink. But that didn't spare the company from an ensuing lawsuit. Per UPI, Kraft Foods and other companies named in a class-action lawsuit agreed to put $6 million worth of coupons on their products as part of a settlement in which the companies didn't concede wrongdoing.