Burger chain settles halal dispute
McDonald's and one of its franchise owners agreed to pay 700,000 US dollars (£440,000) to members of the Muslim community to settle allegations a Detroit-area restaurant falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law.
McDonald's and Finley's Management agreed to the tentative settlement, with that money to be shared by Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.
Ahmed's attorney, Kassem Dakhlallah, said he was "thrilled" with the preliminary deal which i's expected to be finalised on March 1. McDonald's and Finley's Management deny any liability but say the settlement is in their best interests.
The lawsuit alleged that Mr Ahmed bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a Dearborn McDonald's but found it was not halal - meaning it did not meet Islamic requirements for preparing food. Islam forbids consumption of pork, and God's name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered.
Mr Dakhlallah said there are only two McDonald's in the United States that sell halal products and both are in Dearborn, which has one of the nation's largest Arab and Muslim communities. Overall, the Detroit area is home to about 150,000 Muslims of many different ethnicities.
The locations advertise that they exclusively sell halal Chicken McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches and they have to get those products from an approved halal provider, said Mr Dakhlallah. He said there was no evidence of problems on the production side, but alleged the Dearborn location on Ford Road sold non-halal products when it ran out of halal.
Mr Dakhlallah said he was approached by Mr Ahmed, and they conducted an investigation. A letter sent to McDonald's and Finley's Management by Mr Dakhlallah's firm said Mr Ahmed had "confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory" that the restaurant had sold non-halal food "on many occasions".
After they received no response to the letter, Mr Dakhlallah said, they filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court in November 2011 as part of a class action.
In the settlement notice, Finley's Management said it "has a carefully designed system for preparing and serving halal such that halal chicken products are labelled, stored, refrigerated, and cooked in halal-only areas". The company added it trains its employees on preparing halal food and "requires strict adherence to the process".
He said although Mr Ahmed believes McDonald's was negligent, there was no evidence that the chain set out to deceive customers. Mr Dakhlallah said: "McDonald's from the very beginning stepped up and took this case very seriously. They made it clear they wanted to resolve this. They got ahead of the problem."