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Lawsuit over content of Taco Bell beef dropped

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The lawsuit over the content of Taco Bell's "seasoned beef" has ground to a halt.

A California woman who sued to force Taco Bell Corp to stop calling the filling for many of its tacos and burritos "seasoned beef" because it had too little beef to be labeled as such has voluntarily dismissed her lawsuit.

Taco Bell, a unit of Yum Brands Inc, said no money had changed hands and that it was not changing its products, ingredients or advertising.

Monday's dismissal came after Taco Bell launched what its chief executive officer, Greg Creed, in an interview called a $3 million to $4 million nationwide advertising campaign to combat negative publicity from the January lawsuit.

The plaintiff, Amanda Obney, contended the beef taco filling contained less than 50 percent beef and that Taco Bell's own suppliers euphemistically called it "taco meat filling."

But Taco Bell countered that the filling is actually 88 percent beef and 12 percent "signature recipe."

"We gave them the facts, which we could have given them three months ago before this was filed, and when they saw the facts they withdrew the lawsuit," Creed said in the interview. "It's that simple."

Taco Bell dominates the market for Mexican fast food in the United States, with a 52 percent share. Yum said in February that the lawsuit had hurt sales in its 5,600 U.S. restaurants.

Dee Miles, a partner at Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles PC in Montgomery, Alabama, representing Obney, said his firm withdrew the lawsuit after Taco Bell made "changes in marketing and product disclosure."

Miles declined further comment, his office said.

Taco Bell had in its ad campaign tried to make light of the lawsuit, saying: "Thank you for suing us."

Yum is based in Louisville, Kentucky, and Taco Bell in Irvine, California.

Shares of Yum were unchanged at $50.38 in afternoon trading.

The lawsuit in Obney v. Taco Bell Corp, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 11-00101.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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