DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — McDonald's and one of its franchise owners agreed to pay $700,000 to members of the Muslim community to settle allegations a Detroit-area restaurant falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law.
McDonald's and Finley's Management Co. agreed Friday to the tentative settlement, with that money to be shared by Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.
Ahmed's attorney, Kassem Dakhlallah, told The Associated Press on Monday that he's "thrilled" with the preliminary deal that's expected to be finalized March 1. McDonald's and Finley's Management deny any liability but say the settlement is in their best interests.
The lawsuit alleged that Ahmed bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a Dearborn McDonald's but found it wasn't halal — meaning it didn't meet Islamic requirements for preparing food. Islam forbids consumption of pork, and God's name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered.
Dakhlallah said there are only two McDonald's in the United States that sell halal products and both are in Dearborn, which has one of the nation's largest Arab and Muslim communities. Overall, the Detroit area is home to about 150,000 Muslims of many different ethnicities.
The locations advertise that they exclusively sell halal Chicken McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches and they have to get those products from an approved halal provider, Dakhlallah said. He said there was no evidence of problems on the production side, but he alleges that the Dearborn location on Ford Road sold non-halal products when it ran out of halal.
Dakhlallah said he was approached by Ahmed, and they conducted an investigation. A letter sent to McDonald's Corp. and Finley's Management by Dakhlallah's firm said Ahmed had "confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory" that the restaurant had sold non-halal food "on many occasions."
After they received no response to the letter, Dakhlallah said, they filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court in November 2011 as part of a class action.