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Chef Jamie Oliver claimed McDonald’s beef ‘unfit for human consumption’ – but did not win legal battle with company

“McDonald's loses legal battle with chef Jamie Oliver, who proved that the food they sell is not suitable for ingestion, because it's highly toxic,” begins a Facebook post published on 11 May 2021.

The post claims British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver forced fast food outlet McDonald’s to change its burger recipe after he revealed that the chain was using “pink slime” – meat products processed with the chemical ammonia hydroxide –  in its patties.  

The term “pink slime” was reportedly coined in 2002 by US department of agriculture microbiologist Gerald Zirnstein, in an email to colleagues. In the meat processing industry, it is largely known as lean finely textured beef.

The post includes a graphic with Oliver holding a McDonald’s burger and chips. Text on the graphic reads: “proves McDonald’s unfit for human consumption. McDonald’s forced to change it’s [sic] recipe.”

The post quotes Oliver as saying: “[W]e're talking about meat that would have been sold as dog food and human beings are served after this process.” It adds that he labelled the meat “pink shit”. 

Was there a “legal battle” between Oliver and McDonald’s over the quality of the fast food company’s meat? We checked. 


McDonald’s removed ‘pink slime’ in 2012

On 30 January 2012 ABC News, a US TV network, reported that McDonald’s had announced it would change the beef it used for burgers. The report linked this decision to an episode of the TV show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which had aired nine months earlier. We could not find the original episode online. 

According to the report, the episode showed Oliver demonstrating how McDonald’s burgers were made by washing leftover pieces of beef, which would normally have been discarded, with ammonia hydroxide to kill bacteria. The segment refers to the meat as “pink slime”. 

The report included a clip of the show in which Oliver says: “This is not fit for human consumption.”

He later says: “We’re taking a product that would be sold as the cheapest form for dogs and after [washing it with ammonia] we can give it to humans.” 

ABC News reported that McDonald’s released a statement saying that they would no longer include the ammonia-washed meat in their burgers. The company said the decision was “not related to any particular event”.

The original McDonald’s statement does not seem to be available on its website anymore. But in the frequently asked questions section, it says its burgers are made from 100% pure beef”.

“Some consumers may be familiar with the practice of using lean, finely textured beef sometimes treated with ammonia, which is referred to by some as ‘pink slime.’ We do not use this,” the company says.

We could find no evidence of any legal action between Oliver and McDonald’s that resulted in the company being forced to change its burger recipe.

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