HomeWhat's Trending'Cheese' Confusion: McDonald's Forced to Revamp Labels in Maharashtra

‘Cheese’ Confusion: McDonald’s Forced to Revamp Labels in Maharashtra

McDonald’s in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, faced a controversial situation after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked their license for misleading customers.

The outlet used a ‘cheese-like’ product, technically called a ‘cheese analog,’ in various dishes without clarifying it wasn’t real cheese. This raised concerns about transparency and potentially misled customers, especially those expecting real dairy cheese.

The FDA discovered the discrepancy during an inspection and suspended the license in November 2023. McDonald’s appealed, but the commissioner upheld the decision, stating they couldn’t use ‘cheese’ in product names if not using real cheese.

Rajendra Bade, a food safety official from FDA-Ahmednagar, highlighted the issue, stating, ‘In October 2023, we visited the outlet in Kedgaon and discovered that the names of food items displayed at the outlet included American Cheese Burger, American Cheese Nuggets, Cheese Burger, Italian Cheesy Lava Burger, and Blueberry Cheese Cake. All these names are their brand names for their products.’

Further investigations revealed that the outlet was using a cheese-like product instead of pure cheese in their dishes. Bade explained, ‘Technically, this is called a cheese analog or cheese substitute. While pure cheese contains milk fat, the cheese analog contains both milk fat and vegetable fat.’

Subsequently, the FDA suspended the outlet’s license in November of the same year after the fast-food chain failed to provide satisfactory clarification regarding the use of cheese analogs in their products. However, after McDonald’s filed a compliance report stating the removal of the word ‘cheese’ from product names, the suspension was lifted, allowing them to resume operations.

FDA Commissioner Abhimanyu Kale issued an order directing McDonald’s to revise their labeling, ensuring clear indications of the use of cheese analogs. This includes renaming products and prominently displaying terms like ‘cheese analog nuggets’ or ‘non-dairy cheese nuggets’ on the packaging.

As the matter unfolds, Hardcastle Restaurant, the franchisee responsible for McDonald’s operations in west and south India, assures their compliance with food laws and ongoing engagement with relevant authorities to address the issue effectively.

This case highlights the potential consequences of misleading consumers. Businesses must ensure compliance with food safety regulations and clearly communicate ingredient information, says our experts at Vakilsearch on navigating food labeling regulations.

Akash G Varadaraj