CHICAGO, June 5 (UPI) -- Fast-food giant McDonalds has posted an apology on its Web site and agreed to donate $10 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a group of Hindus over the burger-maker's french fries.
McDonald's had advertised the fries as vegetarian fare but injected the spuds with beef flavoring.
"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," the apology, available Wednesday, reads.
"We acknowledge that, upon our switch to vegetable oil in the early 1990s for the purpose of reducing cholesterol, mistakes were made in communicating to the public and customers about the ingredients in our French fries and hash browns. Those mistakes included instances in which french fries and hash browns sold at U.S. restaurants were improperly identified as 'vegetarian.'"
McDonald's ingredient list mentions "natural flavoring" but does not specify beef. McDonald's said when its fries are par-fried prior to freezing and shipping, "natural flavoring is used." At restaurants, the fries are then cooked in vegetable oil.
McDonald's first apologized for the misinformation in May 2001 after Seattle lawyer Harish Bharti filed a class action suit, accusing McDonald's of deception by advertising its fries as prepared in "100 percent vegetable oil." Bharti said a reasonable person reading that would assume they are suitable for vegetarians. The suit sought unspecified damages for "emotional distress" and was filed on behalf of two Hindu and one non-Hindu vegetarians.
In its latest apology, McDonald's said it would create an advisory panel on consumer dietary practices and agreed to donate $10 million "to Hindu, vegetarian and other groups whose charitable and educational activities are closely linked to the concerns of these consumers."
"We regret we did not provide ... customers with complete information and we sincerely apologize for any hardship that these miscommunications have caused among Hindus, vegetarians and others," McDonald's said. "We should have done a better job in these areas and we're committed to doing a better job in the future."