McDonald’s Settles $700,000 Lawsuit over Islamic Diet in U.S.

McDonald’s and one of its franchise owners, Finley’s Management Co., agreed to pay $700,000 to members of the Muslim community in order to settle allegations that a Detroit-area restaurant falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law.

An agreement to the tentative settlement was reached on Friday. The money will be shared by Dearborn Heights resident, Ahmed Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.

The lawsuit alleged that after Ahmed bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a Dearborn McDonald’s, he found that it wasn’t halal, which means it did not meet Islamic requirements for preparing food.  Islam forbids the consumption of pork.  Before an animal is slaughtered for consumption, Islamic law requires that G-d’s name be chanted.

According to the suit, there are only two McDonald’s in the U.S. that sell halal products and both are located in Dearborn, since it is one of the largest Arab and Muslim communities in the country.  The Detroit area is home to approximately 150,000 Muslims, of different ethnicities.

The lawsuit alleges that these McDonald’s locations advertise that they exclusively sell halal Chicken McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches, both of which must come from an approved halal provider.  It is alleged that the Dearborn location sold non-halal products when they ran out of halal.

Ahmed contacted an attorney and an investigation was conducted. They sent a letter to McDonald’s Corp. and Finley’s Management stating that Ahmed had “confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory” that the restaurant had sold non-halal food “on many occasions.”

The lawsuit was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court in November 2011 as part of a class action suit after they did not receive a response to their letter.

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 labeled, 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.”

The lawsuit covers any customers who bought the halal-advertised products from the Ford Road restaurant and another Dearborn McDonald’s (with a different owner between September 2005 through last Friday). Since that would be almost impossible to determine, both sides agreed to provide money to community-based charities that benefit members of this group.

The other McDonald’s location (on Michigan Avenue) was not involved in any part of this investigation.

McDonald’s and Finley’s Management deny any liability but say that the settlement is in their best interests.  The preliminary deal should be finalized by March 1st.

It was reported that the final hearing will ultimately determine who gets what and how much, but approximately $275,000 is expected to go to the Huda Clinic, about $150,000 is expected to go to the museum, about $230,000 for attorney fees and the remaining $20,000 to Ahmed.

Although Ahmed’s attorney believes this is the first lawsuit of its kind related to McDonald’s and halal food, in 2002, McDonald’s agreed to donate $10 million to Hindu and other groups in the U.S. to settle lawsuits accusing the chain of mislabeling french fries and hash brown potatoes as vegetarian. The vegetable oil used to prepare the potatoes contained traces of beef for flavoring.

Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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