McDonald’s has agreed to pay out $700,000 to members of Michigan’s Muslim community after one of its restaurants allegedly wrongly claimed to be serving halal food.
The situation came to light after local resident Ahmed Ahmed said he bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 in a franchise restaurant in the Dearborn neighbourhood of Detroit.
He claims he later discovered the food was not halal, despite signs in the restaurant suggesting it had been prepared according to Islamic requirements.
There are two McDonald’s restaurants in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, both of which sell halal products to cater for one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States.
Mr Ahmed said that after discovering his food was not halal, he approached a lawyer and together they conducted an investigation.
A letter sent to McDonald's and Finley's Management by lawyers said Mr Ahmed had “confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory” that the restaurant had sold non-halal food “on many occasions”.
After they claimed to have received no response to the letter, Mr Ahmed’s lawyers filed a lawsuit as part of a class action.
McDonald's and Finley's Management reportedly agreed to the tentative $700,000 settlement, with the money to be shared by Mr Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.
McDonald's and Finley's Management deny any liability but say the settlement is in their best interests. The preliminary deal is expected to be finalised on March 1.
In the settlement notice Finley's Management said it "has a carefully designed system for preparing and serving halal such that halal chicken products are labelled, stored, refrigerated, and cooked in halal-only areas".
The company added it trains its employees on preparing halal food and 'requires strict adherence to the process'.
Mr Ahmed’s lawyer Kassem Dakhlallah said that although he believes McDonald's was negligent, there was no evidence to suggest it had set out to deliberately deceive customers.
“McDonald's from the very beginning stepped up and took this case very seriously,” Mr Dakhlallah said.
“They made it clear they wanted to resolve this. They got ahead of the problem.”