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01/06/03 . by Philip Willan in Rome . Observer . UK
McDonald's fries critic of its 'cardboard' food
Once the legions marched forward to repel the barbarian hordes; now a lone Italian food critic has ridden out against what he sees as their contemporary equivalent. The visigoths were armed with axes and fought beneath skulls on stakes. Edoardo Raspelli is taking on an enemy armed with slick lawyers whose standard is a pair of golden arches.
Raspelli, a leading Italian food critic and advocate for Italy's 'slow food' movement, is being sued by McDonald's, the giant US burger chain, after panning the food they serve to more than half a million Italians each day.
Raspelli, who is known for his trenchant dismissal of poor cuisine, was unimpressed by the fare he sampled - 'obscene French fries tasting of cardboard' and 'rubbery buns'.
The experience had confirmed McDonald's reputation as a 'symbol of oppression for the culture of the palate,' he wrote.
His words touched a raw nerve at the American multinational, which is battling to maintain sales and is tired of being singled out as an example of rapacious capitalism.
McDonald's Italy said Raspelli's comments were 'clearly defamatory and offensive' to the firm and its customers. It was seeking 'fair damages' and, though it has not named a figure, it has suggested that the judge should bear in mind the £21 million it spent on advertising in Italy last year.
Alessandro Facchino, the lawyer representing McDonald's, said his client could prove Raspelli's accusations were false. 'The group follows very rigorous quality standards,' Facchino said
'The fries are placed in cardboard containers for a maximum of five minutes. If they are not served to a client, they are thrown away. There's no question of their tasting of cardboard.'
Raspelli, who writes for the Turin daily La Stampa, said yesterday: 'In the Seventies the Red Brigades had a slogan, "Strike at one to educate a hundred." I hope that's not what McDonald's has decided to do with me.
'Eating at McDonald's is like taking your car to the petrol station. You fuel your body but the pleasure of food is to be found elsewhere.'
Raspelli, who has already won more than 20 libel suits brought by aggrieved restaurateurs and wine producers, fears his
French fries could turn out to be the most expensive in history when the latest case is settled in October.