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24/05/01 . Steven Evans . BBC . United Kingdom
McDonald's grilled over 'veggie fries'
Fast food giant McDonald's has expressed regret for not giving the public what it calls "complete" information about the way its potato chips are cooked.
With a multi-million dollar court case on the way, the BBC has learned that McDonald's has conceded that it may have confused customers over whether its fries were vegetarian, and so acceptable to Hindus.
In 1990, McDonald's announced with much fanfare that it would switch to cooking its fries in vegetable oil, making them acceptable to vegetarians who will not eat food cooked in beef fat.
However, it has now emerged that this is only part of the process.
In North America, the fries are first cooked at plants using beef fat, and then frozen before being shipped to the restaurants for further frying.
American Hindus have started legal action seeking damages, which they say could run to millions of dollars.
In India the revelation caused rioting until the company assured local people that the method of cooking there was strictly vegetarian.
McDonald's has nearly 30 restaurants in India, selling chicken, lamb and vegetarian products
McDonald's has now conceded ground. The corporation's website on nutrition says it regrets if customers felt information was incomplete.
A spokesman for McDonald's said: "We're not too big to apologise."
The company has also clarified its policy, saying that in predominantly Muslim countries it conforms strictly to Halal standards with no beef or pork flavouring.
But the apology is unlikely to head off the lawsuit in the United States being brought by the Hindus, for whom the cow is a sacred animal.
In America, non-Hindu vegetarians are divided on the issue.
Some say they are outraged, but others say that the name McDonald's is synonymous with beef - so what did customers really expect?