McDONALD's was accused yesterday of concealing reams of documents vital to the defence of two unemployed environmentalists whom the fast-food chain is suing for libel.
David Morris and Helen Steel claim that the papers will help them to prove their allegations, printed in a leaflet distributed in the 1980s, that McDonald's activities damage the environment, its food harms the health of customers and it treats livestock and employees badly.
Last month the Court of Appeal ruled that McDonald's must hand over documents believed to be central to the case.
"We allege that McDonald's has withheld a large quantity of documents from the defence," said Mr Morris as the trial formally opened in the High Court. The two are arguing their own case because libel cases are ineligible for legal aid.
McDonald's claims that the most damaging accusation is the leaflet's claim of an established link between heart disease, breast and bowel cancer and the company's foods.
Mr Morris and Ms Steel also allege that McDonald's is obstructing their wish to have the case heard by a jury.
The case was adjourned.