McDONALD'S & BSE - THE FACTS
Press Release: 23rd March, 1996
This briefing outlines the situation as established by McDonald's own representatives and experts in the McLibel Trial - all facts and quotes are taken from the daily official court transcripts
(1) On 22nd March 1996, McDonald's in Holland banned British beef.
(2) Statement from the Director of the UK Consumers' Association, 22nd March 1996: "Consumers who want to avoid the risk of BSE have no choice but to cut out beef and beef products from their diet".
Dave Morris, McLibel Defendant, questions McDonald's UK President Paul Preston on Day 4 of the McLibel Trial (July 1st 1994) about BSE (from the official court transcript):
Q. "If the McDonald's Corporation, certainly in this country, felt there was any risk to the public from eating beef slaughtered in this country, or anywhere where mad cow beef is thought to be possibly present, would they cease selling beef?"
A. "If we thought beef was a health hazard to the citizens of the world you may rest assured we would not sell beef. We are not going to endanger our reputation with our customers - under any way shape or form. We are not going to endanger people."
- All McDonald's beefburgers are manufactured by McKeys Ltd (approx 1 million per day). David Walker, McKeys owner, stated that they use some beef from approx 1 in 12 of all cattle slaughtered in the UK.
- McDonald's expert witness Dr Neville Gregory stated that the abattoirs supplying McKeys use mainly ex-dairy cows.
- Tim Chambers, Manager from Midland Meat Packers (the largest of dozens of abattoirs supplying McKeys for McDonald's use) stated that they use cattle 'from all over the country'.
- McDonald's did not wish to identify specific abattoirs, but did admit to being supplied by Midland Meat Packers (at Crick, Northants), ABP Ltd (Wellingborough),and Jarretts Ltd (Bristol).
- Defence witness, Marja Hovi, was the official veterinary surgeon at Jarretts slaughterhouse (which supplies McDonald's) in 1994. She was sacked after refusing to sign export certification verifying that Jarretts beef supplies came from herds free of BSE for at least 6 years. She stated that there was no supporting documentation to enable such verification. McDonald's UK didn't even demand the certification which was needed for Jarretts' European customers.
- Of the 40 checks which McDonald's UK claim their suppliers must carry out, not one relates to bse contamination or specifies that their raw material supplies must come from herds which have been BSE-free for a number of years.
- McDonald's claim that their supplies are subject to checks. However, at the Trial, David Walker admitted that beef supplies sampled and checked, and found to have 'unsatisfactory' levels of bacterial contamination (over 10 million per gram) were in fact not rejected, and still used for McDonald's burgers. Likewise, he admitted that a second check was for raw beef arrival temperatures which would receive a 'cast iron rejection' if over 4 degrees centigrade - but when challenged with documents showing higher temperatures accepted, he stated "the quality control officer receiving the meat would make a management decision which was right for the company".
FOOD POISONINGThe court heard that there had been several occasions when the authorities had taken action against McDonald's for selling raw or undercooked meat products including an incident in November 1994 when a 3 year old girl was served undercooked Chicken McNuggets containing salmonella. The McNuggets were tested by local health officials and declared unfit for human
The court also heard how the company now admitted responsibility for a serious food poisoning outbreak in Preston in 1991, when several customers were hospitalised as a result of eating undercooked burgers contaminated by potentially deadly E.Coli 0157H bacteria. They also admitted responsibility for a similar outbreak in 1982 caused by the same type of bacteria, which affected 47 people in Oregon and Michigan, USA.
NB: McDonald's have refused to call their own expert witness on food poisoning, Colin Clarke, who prepared a detailed report following a visit he made to three company stores. The court heard that, regarding the cooking of hamburgers (which he had tested), Mr Clark "recommends that 73 degrees centigrade be the internal minimum temperature of the final product, and that their temperatures were not reaching that in all cases. The minimum was, in fact, 70 degrees centigrade."
The Corporation's confidential Operations Manual for all stores world-wide was quoted. It set a minimum internal temperature to be reached of 64 degrees centigrade
a cooked burger. Robert Beavers said the company was "maybe 99.8%" sure this temperature was safe. But he believed it had been raised a degree or two following the deaths of two customers of Jack-In-The-Box a couple of years back, in a similar incident to the 1982 McDonald's one. He admitted that this recent incident had "heightened the awareness of everyone in the industry" and agreed that the US Government "was concerned" about internal temperatures of cooked burgers and was considering introducing regulations "if necessary".