McDonald's - Bharti's Victory Statement.
Seattle, Washington - 11 March, 2002 (PRN):"I am proud of obtaining the apology, (with admission of wrong doing) the enhanced disclosure from McDonald's, and the advisory board. This means a lot to my clients and I, because this is very valuable for the consumer interest in the long run. In the last 100 years this is the first giant corporation to apologize, admit wrongdoing and also pay millions of dollars. I am proud of that", stated Harish Bharti.
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."
"But there's no way I would trade more money for the apology. An apology is something you can't get out of a trial," he said.
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.
Bharti provided the language for the McDonald's apology, which he said is to be printed in newspapers. "Without an apology I wouldn't have thought of settling. An apology was more important to my clients than anything else," Bharti, who is Hindu and does not eat meat, said yesterday.
Bharti filed a class-action suit in California soon after the one he filed in behalf of Washington vegetarians on May 1, 2001. The suits said McDonald's deliberately misled customers who don't eat meat products by using beef tallow in its fries and hash browns long after making a widely publicized 1990 pledge to cook them in vegetable oil. McDonald's admitted using beef extract, not beef tallow.
In addition, McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Ill., has agreed to disclose the ingredients in its menu items.
"I'm very proud of receiving the disclosure," Bharti said. "In the long run, it's the best thing for the American consumer because McDonald's is a leader in the industry, and everybody else will have to follow. It's how the food industry will have to behave in the future."
McDonald's has agreed to publish its apology in newspapers after the settlement is completed. In a copy of the apology obtained by The Seattle Times, the company acknowledges "mistakes were made in communicating to the public and customers about the ingredients in our French fries and hash browns." The apology goes on: "Those mistakes included instances in which French fries and hash browns sold at U.S. restaurants were improperly identified as 'vegetarian.' "
Along with expressing regret for failing to provide customers with complete information and causing hardship among Hindus and vegetarians, the company states that it "has enhanced its disclosures concerning the source of ingredients in its food products" and pledges to make the information available at McDonald's Web site, www.mcdonalds.com, and at each of its stores.
McDonald's Apology With Admission Of Wrongdoing (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 acknowledge that, upon our switch to vegetable oil in the early 1990's 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."
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.
As a direct result of these events, McDonald's has enhanced its disclosures concerning the source of ingredients in its food products. This information is available at McDonald's website, www.mcdonalds.com, and will be available at each store.
McDonald's has created a Dietary Practice/Vegetarian Advisory Panel consisting of experts in consumer dietary practices that will advise McDonald's on relevant dietary restrictions and guidelines, which McDonald's and others can use for marketing to persons who follow those restrictions. As part of this settlement, McDonald's is donating $10 million to Hindu, vegetarian and other groups whose charitable and educational activities are closely linked to the concerns of these consumers."
For more information, please contact:Harish Bharti
Attorney at Law
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