Maharashtra FDA cracks down on McDonald's for using substitutes for cheese

Maharashtra FDA cracks down on McDonald's for using substitutes for cheese

The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken stringent action against fast-food giant McDonald's, accusing it of misleading consumers by using substitutes in place of real cheese in burgers and nuggets, according to a report by the Times of India (TOI). Following the suspension of a McDonald's outlet license in Ahmednagar, the chain has removed the term "cheese" from various menu items while the FDA is pressing for wider corrective measures across the state and, potentially, the nation.

The FDA's crackdown on McDonald's began in October with an inspection of their Kedgaon branch in Ahmednagar. Following the discovery that at least eight items contained cheese analogues, the establishment received a show-cause notice from the FDA. Despite McDonald's contesting the action, the outlet's license was suspended due to an unsatisfactory explanation. In December, McDonald's informed the FDA that they had renamed the products by removing the word "cheese".

Cheese alternatives, also known as cheese analogues, are formulated to mimic the taste, texture, and functionality of traditional dairy cheese. Typically, these substitutes replace milk or dairy fat with more cost-effective vegetable oil.

Allegedly, several McDonald's items were found to contain cheese analogues without proper disclosure on food labels or electronic display boards, misleading consumers into believing they were consuming real cheese. FDA Commissioner Abhimanyu Kale expressed concern over the omission of such crucial details, emphasising its potential health implications.

However, when approached by TOI, McDonald's denied using substitutes, asserting, "...we want to reassure customers that we use only real, quality cheese in all our products."

McDonald's has recently faced criticism globally when a local franchisee in Israel announced free meals for Israeli soldiers in October. In response, some franchisees, like McDonald's Oman, announced donations to relief efforts in Gaza.

Last month, McDonald's President and CEO Chris Kempczinski highlighted the impact of misinformation in regions like West Asia on sales. Beyond customer boycotts, protests have led McDonald's to temporarily adjust store hours or close certain locations.

Despite these challenges, McDonald's reported an eight per cent increase in revenue to $6.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023, meeting analyst expectations, with net income rising by seven per cent to $2 billion.