Fast food chains McDonald’s and Burger King ruled out any incitement to misleading consumer advertising in the case of “fake hamburgers,” in which stores sold picanha sandwiches without picanya meat and ribs without cut ribs, respectively.
According to the companies, descriptions of promotional materials and sales reports made it clear that the flavors of the products were conveyed through the sauces and not through the meat of the hamburgers.
The information was sent in writing to the Senate Inspection, Control, and Defense Commission (CTFC), which made public hearings on charges this Thursday (12). The case was revealed in April by Coma Com Os Olhos blog.
In the document, Burger King explained that “all products offered in restaurants and online sales contain a full menu with all ingredients.” Pictures of the Rib Whopper have been shared online with the ingredients “ribbed-flavored pork burger”.
The BC stressed that the controversial hamburger, which has been sold since November 24, 2021, is registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, indicating that it contains 95% pork, another 5% seasonings and additives. According to the company, the recording has never been questioned by the authorities.
“This information throughout the marketing period was clear and accessible to the consumer: the taste was rib meat, not cut rib meat,” the company said in a statement. “Product components have always been within reach of the consumer through all forms of communication. So much so that in this sense, the Coma Com os Olhos blog had no problems finding information,” BK added.
“Like most foods in the food industry in general that define their taste without the right raw materials, like strawberry-flavored ice cream without strawberries, cheese-flavored crackers without cheese, chicken-flavored instant noodles without chicken, BBQ-flavored potato chips. (this does not exist in nature) – Rib Whopper® got its name from its taste – and there is nothing wrong with that, since
all regulatory requirements that guide the industry, such as consumption rules, advertising rules and sanitary standards, have been met, ”the company emphasized.
A similar claim was used by McDonald’s, which marketed the New McPicanha as a “100% beef hamburger” with picanha-flavoured mayonnaise. According to the company, the indication that the flavor came from the sauce was included in the promotional material and on the menu available to consumers, misrepresenting the advertisement.
“From a simple analysis of the fragments of the message, it can be seen that the Company never indicated that the hamburger would consist of picanya meat. Against. Both the promotional material, which explicitly states that it is “100% beef with a picanha-flavored sauce”, and the marketing of “The New McPicanha” were done in good faith with the intention of conveying the taste of the new product line to consumers, always emphasizing the composition of the sandwich and never trying to introduce misleading their consumers,” he explained.
“Brazilian consumers are accustomed to buying products whose names refer to the taste, aroma and feel they offer, not necessarily their composition. […] This is an absolutely common practice that consumers have long been accustomed to.”
Following the exposure of possible misleading advertising, the Consumer Protection Institute (Procon) of the Federal District decided to suspend the sale of products and remove promotional materials. Both chains complied with this determination and BK changed the menu and began selling a sandwich called “Whopper Paleta Suína” as required by law.
In the Senate, Procon-DF CEO Marcelo de Souza do Nascimento indicated that it was clear that there was misleading advertising in the sale of the products. According to him, the practice is characterized by any kind of information or advertising communication that can mislead the consumer about the nature and properties of the product.
“Advertising is the main way to get us consumers to buy a certain product, the martyr used by companies is what grabs the attention of the consumer. But it is necessary to observe special regulations for advertising campaigns, including good faith, transparency and trust,” he explained.
“In this case, it was not a product unfit for consumption. It was a matter of advertising, which, in the form in which it was advertised, misled the consumer into believing that he was buying a steak sandwich, and only steak in the sauce, ”he concluded about the McDonald’s product.
Mariana Gondo, a lawyer at the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection (Idec), emphasized that the Consumer Protection Code (CDC) does not allow violations of the right to information. In addition, she said, another decree regarding the basic rules of nutrition requires the provision of information on the use of flavors in a legible form, which would be ignored by fast food companies.
“We’re not talking neon pink tutti frutti flavored candies where consumers expect to find tutti frutti. It’s about sandwiches that have all the ads, and the way the products are advertised, the consumer’s fair expectation that these products contain ingredients that are highlighted with asterisks,” the lawyer said.
TIME now in Brasilia. Get access to the special cover of the federal capital to follow News of the Three Forces.