• Sumo

There’s an old wives tale that humans replace every cell in their bodies every seven years, meaning that technically, the person you were seven years ago is not the person you are today, as your new cells have created a new “you.” This must be what Taco Bell hopes to accomplish, as they’ve promised by 2020 that they’ll be a brand new restaurant. Sort of.

Taco Bell plans to have 20 percent of its combo meals – those with a dish, side, and drink – meet one-third of the federal dietary guidelines. If this sounds strange in many ways, that’s probably because it is.

First, seven years is an awfully long time to wait to start improving nutrition. While they’ve already cut sodium in their foods by an average of 20 percent over the last few years, their target demographic – Millenials – may have long moved on to healthier choices by then anyway. Then again, that demographic is likely to have less income than prior generations, so this might be all they can afford. “Our customer tastes and needs are evolving,” Greg Creed, Taco Bell’s CEO said. “They want more balanced options.” But not for seven years!

Second, why only 20 percent? This seems like an oddly small number, given how long they’re said to be taking to implement this new menu. They have a “Fresca” menu right now, consisting of foods that don’t have the same fat and calorie impacts of their other items. It would seem that an entire re-haul of half or all of their menu might be a more ambitious, more worthy pursuit.

A nutritionist quoted in the USA Today article asked: “Does anyone actually go to Taco Bell who is worried about calories or sodium? I think their target is looking for something that is convenient, low-cost and fills them up.” This is a good question that links up with the second point: If Taco Bell is trying to change their image, why not change their entire image over seven years, rather than worry about only a select few things?

It seems that Taco Bell is trying to have it both ways, but no one knows what nutritional standards will be by 2020. Rather than attempt to leap ahead and gain a potentially huge edge over other fast food restaurants by taking greater initiative, Taco Bell is looking to have one-third the federal dietary standard of 2013 by the year 2020. Seven years from now, what can we expect excuses to be when those standards are not met? Perhaps it will be similar to GM’s complaints that fuel standard expectations could not possibly be met in time, even though competitors are already far ahead of them. Here’s hoping that part of their menu revamp offers far more vegetarian dishes.