Consumer Confidential: Taco Bell gets beefy, wages and benefits rise (a little)

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Here’s your finish-line Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Taco Bell has come out fighting against the lawsuit that alleges the company’s beef isn’t so beefy. The company declares in full-page newspaper ads, ‘Thank you for suing us.’ Taco Bell’s president, Greg Creed, told CNN that ‘our reputation’s been falsely tarnished’ and that the company may file its own lawsuit over the ‘egregious’ accusations against its beef. The fast-food company said its beef is ‘100% USDA inspected’ and insisted that its meat mix is ’88% beef and 12% secret recipe.’ But the lawsuit, filed in federal court within the Central District of California, claims the mix is about one-third beef. To which I can only say: Secret recipe?

-- Feeling more flush? Apparently you should be. Workers saw their wages and benefits rise slightly faster last year than in 2009, but the gain was still the second-lowest increase in nearly three decades, according to the Associated Press. Wages and benefits increased 2% last year after a 1.4% increase in 2009. Both years saw the smallest gains on Labor Department records that go back 28 years. The modest gains reflect the lousy economy, which pushed millions out of work and depressed the bargaining power of those with jobs. While weak wage gains mean low inflationary pressures, it also leaves households with less income to boost consumer spending. And that means, of course, that millions of workers are asking, ‘Where’s the beef?’

-- David Lazarus