McDonald's Amends Labels After 'Fake Cheese' Row, FDA Revokes Suspension Of Licence

McDonald's Amends Labels After 'Fake Cheese' Row, FDA Revokes Suspension Of Licence

The outlet had recently faced FDA scrutiny for allegedly using a “cheese-like” product in its dishes without indicating that it was actually a cheese substitute, thereby misleading customers.

Swapnil MishraUpdated: Saturday, February 24, 2024, 08:22 PM IST
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Mumbai, February 24: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revoked the suspension of licence of a McDonald’s outlet in Ahmednagar district after taking action against it over cheese. The outlet had recently faced FDA scrutiny for allegedly using a “cheese-like” product in its dishes without indicating that it was actually a cheese substitute, thereby misleading customers.

Following an inspection and subsequent objections, the outlet’s licence was suspended, but the suspension was revoked recently after the chain filed a compliance report. "In October 2023, we visited the outlet in Kedgaon and discovered that the names of food items displayed at the outlet included American Cheese Burger, American Cheese Nuggets, Cheese Burger, Italian Cheesy Lava Burger, and Blueberry Cheese Cake. All these names are their brand names for their products,” said Rajendra Bade, a food safety official from FDA-Ahmednagar.

Cheese-Like Product Was Found In McDonald’s Products:

The FDA found that instead of pure cheese, the outlet was using a cheese-like product. “Technically, this is called a cheese analogue or cheese substitute. While pure cheese contains milk fat, the cheese analogue contains both milk fat and vegetable fat,” he said. The FDA then sought the fast food giant’s clarification over the presence of milk fat and vegetable fat in products advertised as containing cheese.

"Since their clarification was unsatisfactory, we suspended their licence in November last year. They appealed against the suspension before the FDA commissioner in Mumbai. The commissioner heard arguments from both sides and instructed the fast food restaurant chain that they cannot use the word ‘cheese’ in their product names if they are not using real cheese,” he said.

McDonald’s Directed To Change Label:

In the order, FDA Commissioner Abhimanyu Kale directed McDonald’s to revise its labelling and prominently tag the products as “cheese analogue nuggets” or “non-dairy cheese nuggets” in a font size and colour that is easily visible and distinguishable from regular cheese products.

The order also required the outlet to list the ingredients on the packaging, ensuring that the terms cheese analogue or non-dairy cheese are prominently displayed. McDonald’s was further told to keep customers informed about the use of cheese analogues in certain products through signage, handouts, and explanations regarding the reasons for using cheese analogues.

In its compliance report, Bade said, the American company said it had amended the labels. “Upon receiving their compliance report, a decision was made to revoke the suspension, and they have been granted permission to resume business as before,” he said.

Hardcastle Restaurant, a subsidiary of Westlife Foodworld Ltd, which has the franchisee rights to own and operate McDonald’s restaurants in west and south markets in India, said in its compliance report to the FDA that it had renamed certain products by removing the word ‘cheese’. On Friday it said that it was engaging with the “competent authorities” in the FDA matter.

“We are actively engaging with the competent authorities on this issue and awaiting their final clarification. We have always been adhering to stringent food standards and are fully compliant with all applicable food laws,” said a statement from McDonald’s India (West & South) shared on Bombay Stock Exchange by Westlife Foodworld.

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