A California man is still ticked about the $1.27 he wasted on mozzarella sticks at his local McDonald’s last Christmas Eve.
So ticked, in fact, that he’s filed a $5 million lawsuit against the fast food chain for allegedly selling him and other customers fake mozzarella instead of the real thing.
In fact, Chris Howe, of Riverside County, has gone so far as to say it isn’t cheese at all, by definition.
The angry customer has aired his grievances against McDonald’s in a complaint filed in federal court last week, which is seeking $5 million in damages as compensation for the fake food, Fox News reported.
The lawsuit includes damages for himself and 40 other allegedly swindled customers.
Howe purchased the offending sticks last year, CNN Money reported. McDonald’s started selling the new item this summer.
But, Howe said in his complaint that he would never have bothered if he knew he’d been allegedly lied to by the fast food chain, and had known they had been “misbranded and adulterated.”
McDonald’s claims that its sticks are “made with 100% real and melty mozzarella cheese,” including 2 percent or less of additives like modified potato and food starch.
It’s not clear how Howe began to suspect that they were made of “something else,” but he was suspicious enough to conduct a core sample test and determined that they contained 3.76 percent starch by weight. According to court documents, they had more starch and water than regulations allow.
The lawsuit didn’t clarify who performed this core test, but the complaint actually includes a diagram of how the filling was extracted for testing.
“Its reasons for doing so are self-evident: inserting filler in its Sticks allows McDonald’s to save money and increase its profit,” the complaint reads, accusing the chain of “limiting its reliance on actual dairy products necessary to make mozzarella, contrary to what the law requires for products labeled as (such).”
If the complaint is correct and McDonald’s sticks do indeed have almost double the amount of starch that it claims to on its ingredient list, that actually is a problem.
According to The Consumerist, federal regulations actually determine what can and cannot be called mozzarella and what the food must be comprised of in order to be worthy of the name. Under these regulations, it cannot contain filler. If McDonald’s sticks have filler, that means the chain has claimed its product includes mozzarella, when technically there wasn’t a shred of the stuff in their fried treats.
The lawsuit against McDonald’s has been filed under the state’s unfair competition, false advertising and consumer protection laws. The class action represents other Californians who may have bought the menu item as well, and customers nationwide. He wants an award for attorney’s fees and a cease and desist order to stop the alleged lies.
For its part, the fast food chain is calling balderdash on the complaint’s claims and is sticking by its sticks.
“Our mozzarella cheese sticks are made with 100% low moisture part skim mozzarella cheese. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously against these allegations.”
Last month, customers excited to get the new menu item were disappointed to find that their fried treats also didn’t contain real cheese — nor any cheese at all. They were served hollow breading instead.
These customers didn’t file a lawsuit, however. Instead, they took their disappointment to Twitter, outing the chain for its oversight. McDonald’s apologized and offered an explanation in a statement.
“In these instances, we believe the cheese melted out during the baking process in our kitchens and shouldn’t have been served,” the company said. “We apologize to any customers who may have been affected. We are working to fix this in our restaurants.”
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