When McDonald's made an Austrian whopper

IF THE head honchos at McDonald's UK are feeling a little deep- fried as some of their customers prepare to emulate their US counterparts by suing over being scalded by hot drinks, they might derive a little comforting schadenfreude from the unfortunate experience of their Austrian colleagues.

In an effort to reassure customers about the national credentials of beef used in their meals following the BSE scandal, the good burghers of the fast-food chain commissioned a special map of Austria on an underlay for the trays used in their restaurants. The map was intended to show a McDonald's product in each of the administrative regions of the country. As the company itself said: "McDonald's use the paper underlays to inform customers of new products."

Some new product. The trouble was that the map depicted the boundaries of Austria as outlined by Adolf Hitler in 1938 - the year of Anschluss.

The country was divided into seven administrative districts and included the "annexation" of Vorarlberg with Tyrol, and the fusion of eastern Tyrol with Carinthia - a concession that Hitler had planned to make to Mussolini. Nor was the Austrian capital, Vienna, to be found anywhere on the map.

According to the local Kourier newspaper, the company first dismissed the map as a "harmless joke". However, it wasn't long before their (now ex) head of marketing, Barbara Enzinger, was quoted as admitting that it was an "unhappy combination of embarrassing coincidences by the creative department".

Gerhard Martinek, from ad agency Heyer and Partners who were commissioned to produce the map, explained that the German graphic artist responsible for the error was not as up-to-scratch on the local geography (and, it would seem, the history) as might have been desired. "It was a bloody stupid coincidence - but we don't wish to offend anyone by any allusion to the Nazis," he said.

McDonald's Austria were, of course, profuse in their apologies and the 75,000 maps that had been printed were destroyed immediately. They missed, however, the most obvious defence of their good intentions - Hitler, it should be remembered, was a vegetarian.

BUNHILL, let no one doubt it, dines on nothing but the finest British beef and, as regular readers will be well aware, there is nothing spongy about the brain residing just below my wig. However, I am more than happy to pay tribute to the late Linda McCartney, who was a tireless campaigner for the vegetarian cause. The frozen meals that bear her name go from strength to strength. Geoff Plasket, spokesman for United Biscuits Frozen and Chilled Foods Ltd, which manufactures the McCartney foods, was happy to tell me that sales are up by 25 per cent on last year. But, I would suggest, they are missing a marketing trick by not selling the meals in Italy.

Shortly after Lady McCartney's death, the commissioner for education in Rome, Fiorella Farinelli, declared that Rome's schoolchildren would, as a mark of respect, eat vegetarian lunches only on a special "Linda Day" - and thus they did. "It is important to reflect on the message spread by this woman," said Ms Farinelli.

Buck up, UB Frozen and Chilled, there's money to be made. Mr Plasket's company would do well to reflect on the words of DH Lawrence who wrote (in Sea and Sardinia, in 1923): "Italy is so tender - like cooked macaroni - yards and yards of soft tenderness rolled round everything." As for Bunhill, Lady Chatterley's liver was always more my kind of thing.

A breath of fresh air

RICH food, rich food ... how to keep the mouth smelling sweet. Clorets, the breath-freshening chewing gum people, are putting an interesting reverse spin on the, ahem, halitosis question, by offering free curries to their loyal chewers. Will this catch on, one wonders? Can we now expect bottles of Listerine to come with 20 Rothmans? Will cloves of garlic only be sold in conjunction with sprigs of parsley?

(Incidentally, I cannot vouch for the efficacy of the parsley method - it comes from a colleague who is a regular contributor to these pages. Readers who discern the unedifying whiff of a heavy night on the tiles on some pages can draw their own conclusions. It would be unchivalrous of me to name him, save to say he is a very caring, sharing kind of chap.)