Libel trial hears tall story of Big Macs

Danny Penman

The Independent, October 29, 1994

Japanese consumers were promised that eating McDonald's hamburgers would make them tall, blonde and pale, the High Court in London was told yesterday during a libel trial.

Den Fujita, president of McDonald's Japanese subsidiary in the early 1970s, was reported to the court as saying in Behind The Arches, an officially sanctioned book: "Japanese people are so short and have yellow skins 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 will become white and our hair blonde."

Mr Fujita lectured in Japanese universities on hamburgers and attracted significant media coverage by making "outrageous" claims for them.

He said the Japanese were very conservative in their eating habits, "but we could teach the children that the hamburger was something good", he was reported as saying.

The marketing strategies of the burger chain have come under fierce attack by two environmentalists from north London, whom the burger chain is suing for libel.

McDonald's claims Helen Steel and Dave Morris published a leaflet claiming the company was responsible for environmental destruction, and its food caused cancer and heart disease. Both deny libel and claim the leaflet is a fair comment on the firm.

Asked by Mr Morris whether Mr Fujita's statements were responsible, John Hawks, chief marketing officer for McDonald's Restaurants, refused to comment because he did not know the context in which they were made.

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