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The BBC's Steve Evans
"In America vegetarians are divided -- some remain angry, others say that MacDonalds and beef are synonymous"
 real 28k

Lawyer leading case against McDonald's Harish Bharti
"This was my concern, to prove that they were using beef"
 real 28k

Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 04:57 GMT 05:57 UK
McDonald's grilled over 'veggie fries'
McDonalds
McDonald' fries are pre-cooked in beef-fat
By Steven Evans in New York

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.

India women in McDonald's
Fast food has become increasingly popular in India
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

Apology

McDonald's has now conceded ground. The corporation's website on nutrition says it regrets if customers felt information was incomplete.

McDonalds meal
McDonald's fries are world famous
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?

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See also:

04 May 01 | South Asia
No beef in McDonald's fries
14 Apr 01 | Americas
McDonald's pays over pickle
07 Nov 00 | Business
The limits of globalisation
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