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McDonald's to pay 8.5 mil - trans fat suit

 
 
Reply Fri 11 Feb, 2005 08:54 pm
McDonald's to Pay $8.5M in Trans Fat Suit



McDonald's Corp. will pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the fast-food giant of failing to inform consumers of delays in a plan to reduce fat in the cooking oil used for its popular french fries and other foods.


BanTransFats.com, a nonprofit advocacy group, sued McDonald's in California state court in 2003, alleging the company did not effectively disclose to the public that it had not switched to a healthier cooking oil.


In September 2002, McDonald's announced it would lower trans fat in its cooking oils and said the switch would be completed in five months. In February 2003, McDonald's announced a delay. The lawsuit accused the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company of failing to adequately inform consumers of that delay.


The agreement announced Wednesday requires McDonald's to pay $7 million to the American Heart Association to use the proceeds to educate the public about trans fats in foods. Heart-clogging trans fat is made when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil
a process called hydrogenation.


Wednesday's settlement also requires McDonald's to spend $1.5 million publicizing that it has not followed through on its 2002 pledge.


Additionally, the company will pay $7,500 to BanTransFats.com and $7,500 to Katherine Fettke, who had filed a separate complaint against McDonald's and has also agreed to settle.


McDonald's has reduced the amount of trans fat in its Chicken McNuggets, Crispy Chicken and McChicken sandwiches, said spokesman Walt Riker.


He said the company is working to reduce trans fat in its other fried foods.


"We're continuing to test. We want to make sure we get it right for our customers," he said.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,516 • Replies: 12
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jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Feb, 2005 10:40 am
Interesting how the big announcement of the change was everywhere (or at least it seemed that way), but any announcement of their being a delay was conveniently forgotten.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Feb, 2005 10:43 am
I didn't know of it before I read this one article.
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shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Feb, 2005 10:47 am
I had never heard of it either Edgar.
Part of me is cheering against McDonalds for finally being held responsible for thier food prep choices

the other part of me still sits and wonders how people are able to sue fast food companies? Common knowledge... fast food = fat problems, heart problems etc....
As people sue McDonalds, they are taking breaks from the court room to gobble up thier Quarter pounders..... Confused
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Feb, 2005 10:52 am
True. There is something about a burger and fries totally irresistable to most of us, myself included.
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shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Feb, 2005 10:57 am
I completely agree with ya.
For some reason that non-food fast food is great!
But I dont feel that I should be able to turn around and sue the maker of that food for MY decision to eat it.
That still blows my mind.
To me that is like sueing Coors brewing company for thier product making me drunk after I drank it.... Laughing
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Anonymous
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 03:48 pm
It is a company's prerogative to inform the public on a grand scale about changes in its products. McDonalds should not have been obligated to make such announcements. If anyone was concerned, he/she could ask McDonlands personally about it.

Microsoft does not publically announce every change/addition it makes to its products. Nike doesn't announce every addition to their products. Cigarrete companies don't inform the public of changes they make. Unless McDonalds is forcing their food down your throat, they should not be held responsible.
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eoe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 04:11 pm
That's how I see it, too.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 05:19 pm
Well, but didn't they make PR hay about the change? The problem, the way I understand it, is that they said, "hey, we're changing, you don't have to worry about trans fats, come back!" -- but then they didn't in fact make the change.

So that's more like Nike saying, "Hey, we're making sure that none of our shoes are made under sweatshop conditions, come back!" -- and then not changing any of their labor practices.

Good PR without the follow-up.
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Anonymous
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 05:28 pm
Good point, sozobe. I guess it matters how they announced the delay in Feburary 2003. According to the plaintiff, they didn't do it adequately enough. How did they announce it? Put up signs? Commercials? This factor determines whether or not they should be held responsible.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 05:31 pm
Right. I don't know if it was adequate or not, but I agree it's the central issue.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 05:37 pm
Hmmm.

If Nike had announced that they were going to quit making Prestos I would have gone out and bought a dozen pair. I have my dilapadated Prestos on right now.

I remember McDonalds making a big deal out of not using trans-fats anymore but I remember nothing about the delay.

McDonalds was also sued because they were using some kind of beef fat for their fries after they promised to quit. Hindu people brought that law suit.

8.5 million is chump change to McDonalds. They got off easy.

I have to say, though, I love McDonalds. I do a lot of work with the kids at Ronald McDonald house. That's a great charity.
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Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 3 Mar, 2005 07:36 am
As a matter of business ethics, I won't loose any sleep over this. McDonald's defrauded its customers, and and now it must pay the price for it.

On the other hand, if the class action suit had failed, I wouldn't loose any sleep over it either. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "the settlement is another big public splash for [attorney Steven] Joseph in his battle against trans fats. In May 2003, Joseph made international news when he sued Kraft Inc. to stop the sale of Oreos to California children because the cookies were high in trans fats. Two weeks after an ensuing flood of publicity, Joseph dropped the suit, saying he had accomplished his goal of raising public awareness about trans fats. Recently, after his organization persuaded 18 restaurant owners in Tiburon to use trans fat-free cooking oil for frying, the group dubbed the Marin County town 'America's first trans fat-free city.'"

In other words, Mr. Joseph is yet another self-absorbed trial lawyer, he's obsessed with a food scare, and he has managed to pull off yet another publicity stunt. If he had failed in this attempt, I wouldn't have shed any tears over it either. So, from a cheerleader's perspective, I'd be fine with the outcome of the lawsuit either way; maybe slightly finer with McDonald's paying.

But as someone who doesn't know enough about the American legal system and would like to learn more, I found this to be yet another demonstration of how poor my intuition about your system is. For example, if the heart of this matter is that McDonald's lied about what was in its fries, I would expect this to be a criminal fraud case. Why wasn't it? If it is a tort case about product liability or something, how, I would expect the plaintiff to demonstrate that McDonald's caused 8.5 million dollars worth of harm to its cusomers (possibly more, because the plaintiff probably settled for somewhat less than he felt entitled to.) In what sense did the plaintiff demonstrate such harm? I would appreciate any light you could cast on this.
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