Broom wars

Help BEEP eradicate invasive broom plants; and what exactly is in that Taco Supreme?

Dulcy Schroeder: Broom eradicator

Dulcy Schroeder: Broom eradicator

PHOto courtesy of BEEP

Broom sweep
There’s an organization up in Forest Ranch called the Broom Education and Eradication Program, or BEEP for short. And no, it’s not against sweeping.

Every winter for the past four years, BEEP volunteers have bundled up to go outside and sweep the Forest Ranch area clean of invasive Spanish, French and Scotch broom plants, doing the hard work of pulling out thousands of the tenacious bushes each year.

In early 2009, an environmentally conscious trio of rockers from Boston called State Radio—along with members of the California Conservation Corps—got out there in the mud and rain to help BEEP eradicate the pesky plants (see “Visiting rockers pull their share,” CN&R, Jan. 29, 2009).

BEEP is starting up its 2011 broom-pulling season, according to BEEP member and founder Dulcy Schroeder, who wrote me an e-mail about broom and the volunteer opportunities it offers.

“What is broom?” wrote Schroeder. “It is a highly invasive shrub that not only moves native plants aside on its way to becoming a monoculture, but also is highly volatile and presents a fire hazard in the foothill communities. BEEP is beginning its fifth year of broom removal in Forest Ranch and welcomes all who would like to volunteer. The work is varied and can include physical removal with a weed wrench, down to collecting statistics with pen and clipboard. There is something for everyone. BEEP will be in action every Saturday in February and March (heavy rain and snow cancels). Just bring gloves, a water bottle and meet at the Forest Ranch Post Office at 9 Saturday morning.” For more information call 892-8726.

Where’s the beef?
Not at Taco Bell, according to Amanda Obney, the woman who filed a class-action lawsuit on Jan. 19 against the California-based fast-food chain for false advertising. Obney is seeking no monetary award.

She is taking issue with Taco Bell’s claim that its products are filled with “seasoned ground beef,” when the “beef” is actually made up of only 35 percent ground beef, according to the lawsuit. The remainder of the filling consists of such nonmeat ingredients as isolated oat product, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch, sodium phosphate, silicon dioxide (finely ground sand, an anti-caking agent), water and seasonings such as chili pepper, salt, sugar, garlic powder and natural smoke flavor (ingredients listed at

According to the USDA (, the rules about calling something “ground beef” include that, while ground beef may contain seasonings, “no water, phosphates, extenders, or binders [are allowed to be] added.”

“You can’t call it beef, by definition,” Obney’s Alabama-based attorney, W. Daniel “Dee” Miles III, was quoted as saying. “It’s junk. I wouldn’t eat it.”

Taco Bell has countered Obney’s suit with a campaign featuring a full-page ad in national publications such as the New York Times and USA Today, as well as regional newspapers such as the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Thank you for suing us,” the ad opens, before going on to say that its seasoned beef consists of “88% Beef and 12% Secret Recipe.” Interestingly, it does not mention the sodium phosphate, anti-dusting agent or anti-caking agent by name. The corporation “plan[s] to take legal action against those who have made false claims against our seasoned beef.”