Aug. 14

McDonald's Clarifies 'Flavor' Definitions


McDonald's says it has no beef with vegetarian customers — and is clarifying its ingredients list to help them out.

In the face of at least one lawsuit over the natural flavorings used in its french fries, the fast food giant is modifying its definition to include the phrase "beef source" in parenthesis.

In a statement released Monday night, the company said it was updating all its "natural flavors" listings to identify specifically whether that flavor was derived from a dairy, meat or vegetable source. "Some of our customers have told us that current state and federal labeling standards do not give them as much information as they want to answer their dietary questions," Ken Koziol, the company's global quality assurance officer, said in a statement. "If our customers want more information about natural flavors to help them make informed choices, then we want to help them."

Sued Over Beef-Based Flavor Additive

This spring, two Hindus from Seattle sued the company, saying they were misled by the undefined ingredient listing into eating french fries — in violation of their religious beliefs.

"They say billions and billions served. I say billions and billions deceived," Harish Bharti, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the two Hindus and a non-Hindu vegetarian, said in May. "Why don't they tell [us] that they have already done the job of frying the product with beef product?"

Bharti's Web site on the case was not updated with a response to Monday night's developments.

All Things Natural

The company has said in the past that it never claimed the fries were vegetarian, that it freely provides such information to those who request it and that it did not use beef- or pork-derived flavor formulas in its meatless menu items in countries where large numbers of people do not eat meat for religious reasons.

The new definitions are already on the company's Web site, and will be included in all future printings of its nutritional information pamphlets. "The term natural flavor has been around a long time and can be found as an ingredient in some of the most common products in home kitchens and on grocery store shelves. Natural flavorings can be found in a variety of foods, including cereal, snacks, ice teas, yogurt, frozen dinners, soup, rice, ice cream, mayonnaise, coffee and many other products, including some of ours." Koziol explained. "McDonald's is now providing more information about the specific source of the natural flavoring — dairy, meat or vegetable because it is a change our customers have requested." —'s Ed Mazza contributed to this report.

News - McDonald's Clarifies 'Flavor' Definitions

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