May 3, 2001 -- Did somebody say McDonald's still uses beef in its French fries?
Two Hindu vegetarians in Seattle are suing the fast food giant, accusing it of making a fraudulent claim by flavoring its fries with animal products without telling consumers.
"They say billions and billions served. I say billions and billions deceived," said Harish Bharti, who filed the lawsuit earlier this week on behalf of the two Hindus and a third, non-Hindu vegetarian.
Hindus do not eat beef for religious reasons.
In 1990, McDonald's announced it would use only pure vegetable oil when making the fries, but the plaintiffs in the suit cite a recent company e-mail stating that tiny amounts of beef flavoring is used in the fries.
"Why don't they tell [us] that they have already done the job of frying the product with beef product?" asks Bharti, a vegetarian himself.
‘Never Claimed Fries Were Vegetarian’
McDonald's said in a statement that the restaurant chain had never claimed its French fries were vegetarian. It said that the company freely provides ingredient information to anyone who requests it.
The company said it uses a "miniscule trace" of beef flavoring, and does not use beef fat. It also said it does not use beef or pork flavorings in meatless menu items in India and other countries where there are large numbers of people who do not eat meat for religious reasons.
The company's U.S. Web site lists the following ingredients for the fries: Potatoes, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, natural flavor, dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate [a color preservative].
"Natural flavor" includes the beef flavoring, the company says.
Bharti hopes the case will become the basis for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of some of the million Hindus and millions of other vegetarians in the United States.