McDonald’s denies “cheese crime” allegations

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In an episode broadcast last week the children’s version of consumer watchdog show Keuringsdienst van Waarde reported that many fast-food chains use fake cheese for their meals, what the voice over calls “cheese crime”. The programme’s test centre revealed that the “cheese” of a McDonald’s Cheeseburger contains “30% non-cheese elements.” McDonald’s and New York Pizza responded quickly and denied the allegations. McDonald’s said that to the contrary, it was the TV show that was misleading, not the American snack food giant.

So-called cheese analogues are used to emulate cheese in a wide range of products, such as pizzas, cheese soufflés, hamburgers and so on. As one manufacturer put it: “[Cheese analogue] is to cheese what margarine is to butter.” And another: “A real analogue does not contain any cheese at all.”

Cheese-substitute is often mixed with cheese waste, so that you cannot tell from the obligatory ingredients list that there’s cheese-substitute in a product. The Consumentenbond, a consumer rights organisation, thinks that is irrelevant. It said that creating a false impression of what’s in your products is illegal too according to Dutch law.

The video is mostly in Dutch, but because a number of the larger cheese analogue producers are in the UK and the US, some of the most revealing quotes are in English (starting at 05:10).

See also:

Via Zibb.nl (Dutch).

8 Comments »

  1. It was quite a good show, I thought.

    A classic moment, obviously unstaged, was when the one kid started gagging on the (pure) fake cheese.

    However, the attack on McDonalds was one of the weaker parts: they didn’t seek any response from the company that I saw, and now that’s coming back to haunt them.

    With time to carefully check its facts, McDonald’s won’t have gotten its protest wrong, I bet.

    Which raises the question of how reliable the Wageningen laboratory was in its analysis in the first place.

    It’s great to teach kids to think critically about corporations, but even better to teach them to think critically about academia and science.

    Comment by Toby Sterling — September 2, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

  2. Great post Branko. I love the phrase “the American snack food giant.” It’s a framing that makes people realize you can’t eat a healthy meal there but you can get snack food.

    Comment by Jan — September 2, 2008 @ 5:30 pm

  3. And now that’s coming back to haunt them

    The story that these consumer watchdog shows thrive on is that of the evil big company having it in for the little guy. (Yes, Marx would be proud.) McDonald’s keeping the conversation alive is just a bonus (free advertising).

    Comment by Branko Collin — September 2, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  4. Jan, I forgot, they call themselves a restaurant chain, right? :-)

    Comment by Branko Collin — September 2, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

  5. Sensationalized or not, it’s true. “Cheese product” and “cheese food” are commonly used in the junk food (ya, I went there) industry to pass off cheese.

    Comment by Darth Paul — September 2, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

  6. That stuff they call cheese on the top of a BigMac is indeed cheddar with oil and colouring mixed in – MacDonalds admit that. So whatever they call it, it is wrong to say it is 100% cheese.

    Comment by Tulip — September 6, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  7. One more reason why McDonalds sucks. *rolls eyes*

    They lost a lawsuit in 2002 because it was discovered that they used a meat-based product on their fries to make them taste better.

    All those vegetarians (largely Hindu) who’d been eating their fries were livid, to say the least.

    Comment by lola granola — September 7, 2008 @ 2:00 am

  8. […] This is just capitalism gone awry. Oh, and if you really thought that extra slice was fit to be called cheese, read this older posting. […]

    Pingback by 24 oranges » Fired on the spot over a slice of cheese — January 26, 2010 @ 11:22 am

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