Well, here’s a stick-y situation.
McDonald’s is facing a class action lawsuit from a California man who claims the restaurant is misleading cheese lovers by including starch in their new mozzarella sticks instead of “100 percent real and melty mozzarella cheese” as advertised.
The lawsuit, filed last week, came a day after McDonald’s issued an apology over its mozzarella sticks when Twitter users posted image after image of hollow-looking sticks that appeared to contain no cheese at all. (The lawsuit, however, is unrelated to this mishap.)
The filed complaint accuses McDonald’s of using a starch filler along with mozzarella in the new menu item. Modified food starch is listed as an ingredient on McDonald’s website, but it’s unclear if it’s listed as part of the breading or the cheese itself.
Lead plaintiff Chris Howe claims it’s in the cheese portion.
“Rather than solely containing cheese, the Sticks contain a mixture of various substances,” the lawsuit reads. “In particular, McDonald’s has used starch as a cheap substitute and filler.”
Added ingredients aren’t uncommon in cheese products: Kraft faced a lawsuit last year over the addition of artificial color in products labeled “natural cheese” (the case is still pending), and powdered cellulose is added to many types of shredded dairy to prevent clumping, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Howe claims that McDonald’s mozzarella sticks violate the Food and Drug Administration rule prohibiting the “adulteration or misbranding” of food, the same principle at the crux of the Kraft case.
But Howe also cites an FDA rule that products labeled as mozzarella can only contain certain optional ingredients including clotting enzymes, coloring, vinegar, salt and antimycotics.
“Starch is not a permitted ingredient of mozzarella under the legal definition of that product,” the lawsuit states. “Nor would a reasonable consumer believe that a product purporting to contain ‘mozzarella’ would include starch.”
Neither McDonald’s nor Howe’s attorneys answered inquiries from HuffPost by press time, but a McDonald’s spokesperson told Law360 Monday that the company refutes the claims, describing the sticks as made with “100 percent low moisture part skim mozzarella cheese.”
Either way, we’ll be rolling our own mozzarella sticks at home.
Also on HuffPost: