McDonald's is close to paying more than $12 million to settle lawsuits filed by vegetarians who accused the chain of concealing the use of beef flavoring in its french fries, according to a published report.
Citing a confidential draft of the proposed settlement, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that McDonald's will pay $10 million to charities that support vegetarianism and $2.4 million to plaintiffs' attorneys. The fast-food chain would also publicly apologize and form a board to advise the company about vegetarian dietary issues.
McDonald's was first sued over the fries in Seattle last year by three vegetarians, including two Hindus, who don't eat meat for religious reasons. Lawsuits were subsequently filed in Illinois, California, New Jersey and Texas.
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of any vegetarian who ate McDonald's fries after 1990. That was the year the company announced its restaurants would no longer use beef fat to cook fries and that only pure vegetable oil would be used. But McDonald's continued to add a small amount of beef tallow to its fries for flavoring.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast-food giant responded to the lawsuits by saying it never claimed the fries it sells in the United States are vegetarian. But the company apologized for any confusion surrounding the use of beef flavoring in the production of fries.
This week, McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker reiterated that the company did not intentionally deceive customers. And, according to the Tribune, the draft of the proposed settlement does not include an admission of wrongdoing from McDonald's.
In a prepared statement, Riker said while the company is working to "resolve this matter" he would not comment further
Damn. How did I miss my chance to become a part of this class-action lawsuit?