SCMP Monday, July 3, 2000

McDonald's fries into trouble over animal oil


McDonald's has come under fire from religious and vegetarian groups for its use of animal oil.

The chairman of the United Muslim Association of Hong Kong, Mohamed Alli Din, demanded the chain change its cooking ingredients. "We've warned about its use of animal oil in our own community papers," he said. "There are 80,000 Muslims in Hong Kong. If McDonald's wants their business, it must adapt."

Mr Din said that in Malaysia and Singapore, foods prepared by McDonald's were halal , meaning they accorded with Islamic dietary principles.

Civil engineer Ajaz Shafi was angered when he recently discovered what kind of cooking oil was used. He said he and his wife and three children had dined at McDonald's once a month since arriving from Britain five years ago.

"It was a real shock," he said. "They could easily fix the problem, but there would have to be pressure from different sectors of society. This issue concerns Muslims, Hindus, Jews and vegetarians."

The chairman of the Vegetarian Society of Hong Kong, Simon Chau Sui-cheong, said he took up the matter with the restaurant chain years ago, but could make no progress.

"We can't eat French fries cooked in beef tallow made from bone marrow. I've seen Chinese Buddhist nuns eating fries and obviously they didn't know what the fries were cooked in," he said.

McDonald's said it used beef tallow to cook French fries and hash browns but vegetable oil to cook everything else, and had no plans to change.

"The original recipe for McDonald's hash browns and French fries uses pure beef tallow," the company said. "The original recipe is still used in Hong Kong because of the consumer preference in this market."