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Has McDonald’s really lost a “legal battle” to Chef Jamie Oliver? It’s wrong

Jamie Oliver is portrayed on social media as a staunch opponent of McDonald’s. The reality is more subtle. – LODI FRANCK / SIPA

  • The famous British chef Jamie Oliver would have, according to a very viral publication for a few days on Facebook, led a victorious “legal battle” McDonald’s.
  • If he mobilized well in 2011 against the “pink paste” incorporated in certain steaks, Jamie Oliver, the standoff was not directly aimed at McDonald’s and did not engage in the field on the legal ground.
  • McDonald’s announced in 2011 that it would no longer use this product in the manufacture of its steaks in the United States. In France, this process has never been used, indicates the company to 20 Minutes.

Jamie Oliver, hero of the fight against junk food? On Facebook, a message reproduced many times over the past week celebrates an alleged legal victory by the British chef over McDonald’s. The cook would have “proved that the food” served by the restaurants of the sign “is not suitable to be ingested because it is highly toxic”. The company would therefore have decided to “change the recipe” of its burgers.

According to the post, Jamie Oliver would have shown that “the fatty parts of meat are washed with ammonia hydroxide” before being incorporated by McDonald’s in its “Big Mac”. And the publication to quote the English cook: “We are talking about meats that would have been sold as dog food and, after this process, human beings are served. Apart from the quality of the meat, ammonium hydroxide is harmful to health. “

The message concludes by specifying that “Burger King and Taco Bell have already abandoned the use of ammonium in their products” and by mentioning an Arte documentary entitled “La grande malbouffe”.

On Facebook, a viral post celebrates Jamie Oliver's struggle with junk food.
On Facebook, a viral post celebrates Jamie Oliver’s struggle with junk food. – Screenshot

Problem: Many elements of this post are misleading or even false.


The controversy surrounding the use of ammonium hydroxide in the manufacture of steaks did take place, but… in 2011 in the United States. As related 20 Minutes at the time, Jamie Oliver was associated with a mobilization campaign that primarily targeted the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The latter bought a “pink sticky paste” intended for school canteens. Made by Beef Products Inc., a South Dakota company, this paste consisted of small pieces of beef mixed in a juicer and seasoned with ammonia, a ministry-approved process to kill any e.coli bacteria. It was then mixed with ground beef, without this being mentioned in the composition of the final product.

On an American television show that aired at the time, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” the chef denounced the use of “a product that would be sold in the cheapest form for dogs and, after that process, [donnée] to humans ”. In a video snippet still online (at 3’35), the champion of healthy cooking dissects an unappealing manufacturing process and claims that this paste was present in 70% of all ground beef products.

“McDonald’s France has never used this process”

As an indirect consequence of this campaign, McDonald’s announced at the end of 2011 that it would stop adding this product to its steaks, as reported in an AFP dispatch published in early 2012. Taco Bell and Burger King had also made a decision similar. There is never any mention of a McDonald’s lawsuit against Jamie Oliver. In 2019, Beef Product Inc announced that it is now manufacturing a “100% ground beef product” approved by the USDA, according to the Associated Press.

“McDonald’s France does not and has never used this process. Our minced steaks are 100% pure beef and 100% pure muscle, with no added fat, ”McDonald’s France told us today. 20 Minutes. He added: “The practice of adding ammonia, which complied with the regulations in force in the United States, has not been used by McDonald’s in the United States since 2011 and has never been used in Europe. The sign also specifies that the decision to stop using the pink paste was not taken after a “legal battle”.

Finally, the documentary “La grande malbouffe”, quoted in most of the viral messages published online, was indeed broadcast on Arte on February 2 (and is available in replay until April 9), but it does not deal with McDonald’s. , neither of the “pink paste”, nor of Jamie Oliver. The investigation starts from the industrial recipe of the cordon-bleu to deconstruct the practices of the food industry.


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