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13/08/01 . Deborah Cohen . Reuters . U.S.A.
McDonald's Tries to Diffuse Meaty Fries Row
Company expands info on U.S. menu ingredients
OAK BROOK, Ill., Aug 13 (Reuters) - Fast-food giant McDonald's Corp. (NYSE:MCD - news) on Monday said it is providing more public information about its food ingredients, just months after a lawsuit filed on behalf of Hindus in the U.S. which claimed the company failed to disclose that its french fries contained beef flavoring.
The suit said the company failed to disclose the continued use of beef flavoring in its french fries, even after it switched with great fanfare in 1990 to cooking them in vegetable oil at its restaurants. Hindus do not eat beef due to their religious beliefs.
"Customers responded to the news about the lawsuit. In the end, we're responding to those customers," said Mike Gordon, a spokesman for the world's largest restaurant company. "We took a fresh look at how we could help customers get more information about natural flavors."
The updated menu information, which is found on McDonald's web site (www.mcdonalds.com), goes a step beyond the company's prior public disclosure because it spells out whether natural flavors used in specific foods on its U.S. menu come from dairy, meat or vegetables.
On the website, the listing for McDonald's french fries now cites "natural flavor (beef source)" in addition to potatoes and other ingredients. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company is also updating printed materials available in its stores with similar changes.
"This has been long overdue," Harish Bharti, the Hindu attorney who filed the lawsuit in a Washington state court, told Reuters. "I'm glad that this lawsuit was successful in bringing McDoanld's to do the right thing; hundreds of organizations had demanded that for over 11 years."
The suit is seeking to expand its representation to some 16 million Hindus throughout the United States with class action status, Bharti said.
Publicity over the french fry issue has led to a similar suit filed in a state court outside of Austin, Texas, and has had a global ripple effect. In India, a slogan-shouting crowd of more than 500 attacked a McDonald's restaurant on the outskirts of Bombay.
Despite its prevalence in the media, U.S. equity analysts have said the french fry suit is unlikely to have a material effect on the McDonald's profits.
McDonald's declined to comment on the suit. On its website, the company publicly apologized in late May for confusion over its representation of the fries ingredients, confirming that natural beef flavoring was used to enhance the taste of its fries before they were sent to its restaurants.
"Because it is our policy to communicate to customers, we regret if customers felt the information we provided was not
complete enough to meet their needs," McDonald's said.