A lawsuit against a McDonald's in Michigan over proper preparation of halal food was settled in favor of the Muslim plaintiffs on Wednesday by a judge who awarded them $700,000.
The class-action suit claimed that a Dearborn Heights man, Ahmed Ahmed, purchased a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a suburban Detroit McDonald’s that falsely advertised its food as prepared according to Islamic law, reported The Associated Press.
Halal food requires that animals be slaughtered in humane conditions, God's name be invoked during the process, and no blood from the deceased animal remain in the food following the slaughter, among other stipulations.
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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.
The franchise owner and McDonald’s restaurant chain had agreed in January to a tentative settlement that would be shared by Ahmed, a Muslim-run Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, and the plaintiff's attorneys.
"As a firm, we’ve borne the burden of litigating this case for over 19 months, and have paid a steep price in time and money to do so," Kassem Dakhlallah, an attorney whose firm represents Ahmed and the others, told the AP in an email. "We are happy that we are able to finalize this case and get the settlement funds paid to the Huda Clinic to be used for medical care for the community, and to the Arab American National Museum to be used to allow our young ones to continue their educations after high school."
Though Ahmed's chicken sandwich purchase was at the core of the lawsuit, the claim technically covered anyone who bought the halal-advertised products between September 2005 and January 2013 from the restaurant and the other McDonald’s in the city, reported AP.
An investigation "confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory" that the restaurant had sold non-halal food "on many occasions," Dakhlallah told the AP.
The restaurant franchisee, Finley’s Management, disputed Dakhlallah's claims, saying in the settlement notice that it "has a carefully designed system for preparing and serving halal such that halal chicken products are labeled, stored, refrigerated, and cooked in halal-only areas." The company added that it trains its employees on preparing halal food and "requires strict adherence to the process."
McDonald’s attorney Thomas McNeill also claimed that if such a problem arose, "it was isolated and rare."
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The settlement was dispersed among several local Muslim charities because most people wouldn’t have kept their receipts argues Dakhlallah, making "identifying class members who have valid claims nearly impossible."
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