This information was supplied by the McLibel Support Campaign

A Year of Great Quotes from the Witness Box

McDonald's witnesses have often said ridiculous things in the witness box in a vain attempt to conceal the truth or justify the way McDonald's operates and the effect those operations have in this country and around the world. Or they have been forced to make admissions. Here is just a small selection:

Nutrition and ill-health

The Defendants asked Dr Sydney Arnott (McDonald's expert on cancer) his opinion of the following statement: "A diet high in fat, sugar, animal products and salt and low in fibre, vitamins and minerals is linked with cancer of the breast and bowel and heart disease". He replied: "If it is being directed to the public then I would say it is a very reasonable thing to say." The court was then informed that the statement was an extract from the London Greenpeace Factsheet. This section had been characterised by McDonald's lawyer at pre-trial hearings as the central and most "defamatory" allegation, which if proven would be the "kiss of death" for a fast-food company like McDonald's. On the strength of the supposed scientific complexities surrounding this issue the Defendants had been denied their right to a jury.

David Green, Senior Vice-President of Marketing (USA), stated 'McDonald's food is nutritious' and 'healthy'. When asked what the company meant by 'nutritious' he said: 'provides nutrients and can be a part of a healthy balanced diet'. He admitted this could also apply to a packet of sweets [candy]. When asked if Coca Cola is 'nutritious' he replied that it is 'providing water, and I think that is part of a balanced diet'. He agreed that by his definition Coke is nutritious.

When asked to define 'junk food', Professor Wheelock (McDonald's consultant on nutrition) said it was 'whatever a person doesn't like' (in his case semolina). With disbelief mounting in the courtroom, Richard Rampton(McDonald's QC) intervened to say that McDonald's was not objecting to the description of their food as 'junk food'!

Peter Cox, (a Defence marketing expert) quoted from 'Behind the Arches', a book authorised by McDonald's in 1987, as evidence that McDonald's were engaged in 'a strategy of subversion' by trying to alter the dietary preferences of whole nations, 'very often for the worse'. The book states that, in Japan, McDonald's faced "a fundamental challenge of establishing beef as a common food". Their President, Den Fujita, said "the reason Japanese people are so short and have yellow skins is because they have eaten nothing but fish and rice for two thousand years"; "if we eat McDonald's hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will become taller, our skin become white and our hair blonde".

McDonald's began a major advertising campaign in the USA in 1987 which aimed "to neutralise the junk food misconceptions about McDonald's good food". An internal company memo, reporting on a high level meeting in March 1986 with public relations advisors prior to the advertising campaign, was read out in court. It states "McDonald's should attempt to deflect the basic negative thrust of our critics.....How do we do this? By talking 'moderation and balance'. We can't really address or defend nutrition. We don't sell nutrition and people don't come to McDonald's for nutrition".

The Effects of Advertising

Incredibly, Paul Preston (McDonald's UK President) claimed that the character Ronald McDonald is intended not to "sell food" to children, but to promote the "McDonald's experience". But an extract from the corporation's official and confidential 'Operations Manual' was read out: "Ronald loves McDonald's and McDonald's food. And so do children, because they love Ronald. Remember, children exert a phenomenal influence when it comes to restaurant selection. This means you should do everything you can to appeal to children's love for Ronald and McDonald's." McDonald's annual advertising and promotions budget is $1.4 billion. It was revealed in court that Geoffrey Guiliano, a Ronald McDonald actor in the 1980's, had quit and publicly apologised, stating "I brainwashed youngsters into doing wrong. I want to say sorry to children everywhere for selling out to concerns who make millions by murdering animals".

The Effects of Packaging on the Environment

McDonald's distributed 'McFact' cards nationwide for several years publicising a scheme to recycle polystyrene waste from stores in Nottingham, where customers were asked to put polystyrene packaging into a separate bin, "for recycling into such things as plant pots and coat hangers". Ed Oakley (Chief Purchasing Officer for McDonald's UK) admitted that the company had not recycled any of the waste and in fact the polystyrene was "dumped".

Paul Preston, McDonald's UK President, said that if one million customers each bought a soft drink, he would not expect more than 150 cups to end up as litter. Photographs were then put to him, showing 27 pieces of McDonald's litter in one stretch of pavement alone (the company has over 600 stores in the UK and serves over a million customers each day).

In some countries the company has abandoned or limited the use of polystyrene packaging, in part because it is not biodegradable and takes up a lot of space in landfill sites. Ed Oakley (McDonald's UK) stated that there is "no landfill problem in the UK". Questioned as to whether he believes that "as long as there is room in the dumps, there is no problem with dumping lots of McDonald's waste in the ground?" Mr Oakley said "and everybody else's waste, yes, that is true". He said "I can see [the dumping of waste] to be a benefit, otherwise you will end up with lots of vast, empty gravel pits all over the country." Asked if he was "asserting it is an environmental benefit to dump waste in landfill sites" he stated "It could be"...."yes, it is certainly not a problem".

Destruction of Rainforests

Internal company documents, mistakenly disclosed to the Defendants, were read to the court in which McDonald's admitted the purchase in the UK in 1983/4 of beef imported from Brazil, a rainforest country. A letter from the McDonald's Corporation to a member of the public in the UK in 1982 stated "we can assure you that the only Brazilian beef used by McDonald's is that purchased by the six stores located in Brazil itself". Ed Oakley (Chief Purchasing Officer for McDonald's UK) denied that the purchase of Brazilian beef for use in the UK was in breach of McDonald's policy of not using beef which originated outside the European Union, saying "No, it was not. We still bought the hamburgers locally. We did not buy the ingredients locally".

David Walker (the Chairman of McKey Foods, the sole supplier of McDonald's UK hamburgers) admitted that he had personally organised the direct import of the consignments of Brazilian beef for McDonald's UK stores in 1983/4. A letter from Mr Walker at the time was quoted in court. It revealed that the imports were a matter of great controversy. The letter stated that Prince Philip, the President of the World Wildlife Fund, had recently met George Cohon, President of McDonald's Canada, and had said: " 'So you are the people who are tearing down the Brazilian rainforests and breeding cattle' to which the reply was: 'I think you are mistaken', whereupon HRH said 'Rubbish' and stormed away". Following this, the letter stated that Fred Turner, the Chairman of the McDonald's Corporation, "issued a worldwide edict that no McDonald's plant was to use Brazilian beef". The same letter revealed that McDonald's UK had given Walker permission to use the Brazilian beef imports.

McDonald's claim that they do not use beef from cattle reared on recently deforested land. However, in his statement (which has been read out during the Trial, Ray Cesca (Director of Global Purchasing of the McDonald's Corporation) admits that when they opened stores in Costa Rica in 1970, they were using beef from cattle raised on ex-rainforest land, deforested in the 1950's and 1960's. In other words, some of it had been cleared less than 10 years earlier. McDonald's own definition of 'recently deforested' is unclear and seems to fluctuate between 10 and 25 years or "from the time that we a country" (Gomez Gonzales, International Meat Purchasing Manager of the McDonald's Corporation).

McDonald's claim that they only use US-produced beef in the USA. However, during the Trial an extract from the TV documentary 'Jungleburger' was shown, in which McDonald's beef suppliers in Costa Rica stated that they also supplied beef for use by McDonald's in the USA.

Employees and Trade Unions

Robert Beavers (Senior Vice-President of the US Corporation) agreed that in the early 70's, when trade unions were trying to organise in McDonald's in the US, the company set up a "flying squad" of experienced managers who were despatched to a store the same day that word came in of an attempt by workers to unionise it. Unions made no headway.

Sid Nicholson, McDonald's UK Vice President, admitted that McDonald's set their starting rates for crew employees for most of the country "consistently either exactly the same as the minimum rates of pay set by the Wages Council or just a few pence over them". He agreed that for crew aged 21 or over the company "couldn't actually pay any lower wages without falling foul of the law". However, he said "I do not accept that McDonald's crew are low paid".

Mr Nicholson said the company was not anti-union and all staff had a right to join one. Under questioning he admitted that any McDonald's workers interested in union membership "would not be allowed to collect subscriptions...put up notices...pass out any organise a meeting for staff to discuss conditions at the store on the premises...or to inform the union about conditions inside the stores" (which would be deemed 'Gross Misconduct' and as such a 'summary sackable offence'). In fact, Mr Nicholson agreed, "they would not be allowed to carry out any overt union activity on McDonald's premises".

Jill Barnes, McDonald's UK Hygiene and Safety Officer, was challenged over a previously confidential internal report into the death by electrocution of Mark Hopkins in a Manchester store on October 12th 1992. It had catalogued a number of company failures and problems, and had made the damning conclusion: "Safety is not seen as being important at store level". In addition, a Health & Safety Executive report of 1992 concluded: "the application of McDonald's hustle policy [ie. getting staff to work at speed] in many restaurants was, in effect, putting the service of the customer before the safety of employees".

Animal Welfare

Dr Neville Gregory (McDonald's expert witness) said McDonald's egg suppliers keep chickens in battery cages, 5 chickens to a cage with less than the size of an A4 sheet of paper per bird and with no freedom of movement and no access to fresh air or sunshine. Ed Oakley of McDonald's said the company had thought about switching to free range eggs, but, not only are battery eggs "50% cheaper", but, he claimed "hens kept in batteries are better cared for". He said he thinks battery cages are "pretty comfortable"!

Ed Oakley (Chief Purchasing Officer for McDonald's UK) claimed that the company "had a very real feeling that animals should be kept and slaughtered in the most humane way possible" and so had published an animal welfare statement two years ago. When questioned about this so-called policy Mr Oakley admitted that the "animal welfare policy is, in fact, just a policy to comply with the laws of the various countries in which McDonald's operate", and added "we do not go beyond what the law stipulates".

Food Safety

A UK 'McFact' card states: "every consignment of beef arriving at the [McKeys] meat plant is subject to a total of 36 quality control checks, carried out by a team of qualified technologists. If a consignment should fail on any one check, it will be rejected by McDonald's." All the raw beef consignments are microbiologically tested, and categorised as 'satisfactory', 'passable', and 'unsatisfactory'. David Walker (Chairman of McKeys, the sole supplier of the company's UK hamburgers) stated that 'unsatisfactory' relates to beef which has a total colony of more than 10 million bacteria per gram. He then admitted that such consignments are, in fact, not rejected and are used for McDonald's burgers.

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 in his statement "recommends that 73 degrees C 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 C."