PR - Crisis and Management

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wait...McDonald's isn't healthy for you?

Much to the surprise and dismay of french fry lovers around the world, McDonalds has announced in 2001, that their french fries aren't healthy for you. Wow...what a shock. In repsone to the filing of a class-action lawsuit by angry vegetarians, McDonald's confirmed that its French fries are prepared with beef extract, a disclosure the company said is not new.

Since 1990, McDonalds has been telling consumer that their fries are cooked in pure vegetable oil,. However, company spokesman Walt Riker said that McDonald's never said its fries were "appropriate for vegetarians and always told customers that their flavor comes partly from beef".

A class action suit has been filed for ''emotional distress'' caused to vegetarians, some of them vegetarian for religious reasons, who thought McDonald's fries were in line with their strong feelings about not eating meat.
The list of French-fry ingredients that McDonald's offers at its franchises and on its Web site includes potatoes, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and ''natural flavor.'' The list does not mention that the ''natural flavor'' comes from beef.

Harish Bharti, the Seattle lawyer who filed the suit against McDonald's Tuesday, said the confirmation that the company uses beef extract to flavor its fries validates his case. Bharti argues that a reasonable person who heard that McDonald's fries are prepared in ''100 percent vegetable oil'' and read the list of ingredients would assume the food is suitable for vegetarians. When asked why the company simply did not write ''beef extract'' on its list of ingredients, he replied, ''It's a good question. We're sensitive to all our customers' needs and concerns. We try to be as forthcoming and user-friendly as possible. We'll review it. We'll take a look at it.''

Bharti said McDonald's contention that the information was available to people if they had only asked is insulting. "Not only did they deceive these people,'' he said. ''Now they are claiming that all these people were deceived because they were stupid. This adds insult to injury.''

Although this incident happened 5 years ago, McDonalds is in the news again for decieving consumers. Debra Moffat, a mother of four in her mid-forties is suing the fast-food chain for failing to disclose that their french fires contain gluten. Moffat is gluten intolerant, a condition called celiac disease that affects one out of every 133 Americans. Moffat is not the first person to sue a fast food chain for not warning about gluten in their fries. Two other people in California and Florida are also suing McDonald's for similar reasons. A local judge is expected to decide next week whether to accept the case as a class-action suit, which would allow hundreds or perhaps thousands of people to join the lawsuit as plaintiffs. No spokesperson for McDonald's was available for comments late Monday.


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