|McDonald's settles beef dispute
with Hindus, vegetarians
Friday, March 8, 2002
By PAUL SHUKOVSKY
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
McDonald's Corp. has agreed to pay $10 million to settle a class-action suit filed on behalf of millions of vegetarians and Hindus that charged the company served french fries flavored with beef tallow without letting people know, said a Seattle attorney who brought the suit.
The settlement calls for an apology, disclosure of ingredients in the fast food giant's products, creation of a board to advise on a vegetarian menu and payment of $10 million to vegetarian and Hindu organizations, said attorney Harish Bharti.
Bharti said yesterday that McDonald's has signed the agreement, but the court has yet to approve it.
Company officials could not be reached for comment.
Bharti, a Hindu Brahmin, said he was humiliated when he took a visiting swami, a holy man visiting from India, to McDonald's for some french fries. Hindus consider the cow a sacred animal and do not eat beef products.
"I was a host to this swami -- a holy man -- and I became responsible for feeding him something he would rather die than eat," Bharti said.
Bharti said he was happy with the proposed settlement -- especially the apology and disclosure of ingredients promised by the Oak Brook, Ill. corporation.
"Ten years down the road, no one will remember the money," said Bharti. "But this apology and disclosure will change the way the food industry treats its customers because McDonald's is the leader in the industry and everyone else will have to follow."
Bharti provided the following language excerpted from the McDonald's apology, which he said is to be printed in newspapers:
"McDonald's sincerely apologizes to Hindus, vegetarians and others for failing to provide the kind of information they needed to make informed dietary decisions at our U.S. restaurants.
We regret we did not provide
these customers with complete information, and we sincerely apologize
for any hardship that these miscommunications have caused among Hindus,
vegetarians and others. We should have done a better job in these areas,
and we're committed to doing a better job in the future."