McDonald’s Japan and Cargill Inc., one of the fast-food company’s chicken suppliers in Asia, are apologizing and trying to reassure the public after a customer at a McDonald’s outlet in Misawa, Japan, reportedly found a 1.5-inch strip of vinyl in an order of chicken nuggets this past weekend. “I am confident that my family can eat McDonald’s products,” said Takehiko Aoki, senior vice president for McDonald’s Holding Co. (Japan) Ltd., during a packed press conference held Wednesday in Tokyo. Cargill temporarily halted production at the company’s chicken-processing plant in Saraburi, Thailand, and officials were said to be investigating the situation. “Food quality is our top priority, and we take these matters very seriously. We are now taking every action we can in collaboration with McDonald’s to determine the facts,” Cargill officials said in a statement. “Based on the outcome of this investigation we will make any changes required to improve processes.” It was just the latest piece of bad news for McDonald’s, which recently switched to three Thai meat suppliers (two owned by Cargill) after troubles with Chinese-manufactured chicken nuggets and had just resumed selling all sizes of french fries after supplies were apparently delayed because of the West Coast dock strike. Another McDonald’s customer in Japan reportedly found a human tooth last year in an order of french fries from the firm’s Osaka outlet, and a small piece of plastic was allegedly found in a sundae from a McDonald’s in Koriyama, Japan, in December. McDonald’s was hit hard by the resulting scandal this past summer when Shanghai Husi Food Co. was accused of repackaging expired meat for its fast-food clients in China. Several executives of the U.S.-owned meat supplier were arrested or detained after the news came out. This past month, McDonald’s Corporation, based in Oak Brook, IL, posted its worst monthly sales decline in more than 10 years. And the company’s Japanese operations forecasted a $156.7-million net loss for 2014, in part due to food-safety problems.

Four McDonald’s restaurants in Moscow have been temporarily closed by Russia’s consumer watchdog agency known as Rospotrebnadzor, which claimed that the company had violated several sanitary laws. Rospotrebnadzor also announced that unscheduled visits would be made to McDonald’s outlets in the Urals in central Russia.

McDonald’s officials said they were checking into the complaints and hoped to reopen the Moscow restaurants as soon as possible. “We will continue taking care of our employees and will do our best to continue the success of McDonald’s business in Russia,” the company stated. McDonald’s has recently been in a legal dispute with Rospotrebnadzor over claims that the fast-food chain, which operates approximately 400 outlets in Russia, had violated food safety standards with its Cheeseburgers and Filet-o-Fish products sold in Novgorod. McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Moscow in 1990, and the fast-food chain’s offerings quickly became popular with Russian consumers. The ongoing political situation in Ukraine has impacted food supplies, with Russia recently announcing a full embargo on food imports from the U.S. and the E.U. in response to sanctions. McDonald’s also recently closed three outlets in Crimea after Russia annexed that area.

China’s Dragon TV has thrust a Chicago-area meat supplier into the arms of its crisis communications team with public apologies and promises for quick corrective action. But Aurora, IL-based OSI Group could not act fast enough to stop McDonald’s and Yum! Brands Inc.’s KFC from cutting business ties with its Shanghai Husi Food Co. Ltd. Late Sunday, the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Administration shut Shanghai Husi down. Dragon TV’s aired report purportedly shows workers at Shanghai Husi picking up meat from the factory floor as well as mixing meat beyond its expiration date with fresh meat. Workers were also recorded as saying that customers would not buy the company’s products if they knew what was going on. Both McDonald’s and KFC used Shanghai Husi as a meat supplier. OSI, with a presence in 10 cities in China, issued a statement on its website saying that it was “appalled by the report” and promising to deal with the issue “directly and quickly.” It also noted that food safety is “the cornerstone of our company and our guiding principal.” The company, formed more than a century ago as a Chicago meat market, promised to conduct its own investigation and to share results with the public. The new food safety scare caused both McDonald’s and Yum! Brands to drop Shanghai as a meat supplier. Shanghai Husi Food Co. Ltd. is a major supplier to Shanghai-area restaurants, according to the two U.S.-based companies. Yum! Brands said it will not tolerate any supplier violating government laws or regulations and that all of its KFCs and Pizza Hut restaurants in China were under orders to seal up and stop using any product from Shanghai Husi. The practices show in the Dragon TV report “are completely unacceptable to McDonald’s anywhere in the world,” a spokesman said. McDonalds was supplied with chicken, beef and lettuce from Shanghai Husi. China is the fast-food chain’s third-largest market in the world. The U.S. companies were on the rebound from recent food safety scandals, including 2012 disclosures about excessive antibiotic use by companies contracted to supply chicken. Both New York Stock Exchange companies saw market declines on Monday, with Yum! shares down 3.5 percent to $74.72 and McDonald’s shares down 0.9 percent to $98.13.

A Bloomington, Illinois McDonald’s restaurant that voluntarily closed down while being investigated as a possible link to a 12-person Salmonella outbreak, has been cleared to reopen, the McLean County Health Department (MCHD) announced on Sunday.

According to MCHD, the restaurant was closed for Thanksgiving on Nov. 22 and then the owners chose to keep the establishment closed while MCHD investigated the cause of the Salmonella Stanley. After employees were cleared by lab results, the restaurant was approved to reopen Sunday morning, with condensed hours.

Local health officials have not yet determined the source of the cluster of illnesses, which includes 12 individuals who ate a variety of different restaurants in Central Illinois from Oct. 18 to Nov. 11, according to MCHD. The county and the Illinois Department of Public Health are still investigating.

“Not all cases in the investigation have a relationship to the McDonald’s restaurant on South Main Street in Bloomington, and the investigation at this time is focused on preventing further spread of illness,” said a press release by MCHD. “The suspected transmission of salmonella related to this cluster does not seem to be a certain food, but rather human transmission.”

“As a result, MCHD collected samples from all employees of the establishment to test for infection out of an abundance of caution. All samples collected from surface-testing in the establishment were free of salmonella bacteria. At this time, 12 reported Salmonella Stanley cases have been confirmed through laboratory testing in McLean County.”

“This scenario could occur at any place of business, restaurant or home,” McLean County Health Department Director Walt Howe said. “As we enter the holiday season, it’s important to remind people that if you’re sick, stay home to protect family, friends or co-workers from becoming sick. Healthy individuals should wash their hands diligently and use a barrier, such as a napkin or a paper towel, to turn off faucets or open doors in public facilities.”

MCHD also reminded consumers that symptoms of Salmonellosis include fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. This specific strain of salmonella—Salmonella Stanley— can produce bloody diarrhea. Those who think they may have been sickened are encouraged to contact the MCHD Communicable Disease division at 309-888-5435.

The trend in labeling calories on menus got super sized Wednesday when McDonald’s announced that it will include calorie information next to all menu items starting next week. The company says it will now provide calorie counts across the board in all of its 14,000 U.S. locations, making it the first nationwide fast food chain of its size to make such a move. “We recognize customers want to know more about the nutrition content of the food and beverages they order,” said Jan Fields, President of McDonald’s USA, in a statement Wednesday. The Obama Administration’s healthcare reform bill of 2010 mandated that all restaurants with over 20 locations post calorie information on their menus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a proposed calorie labeling rule in April of last year, but the rule has yet to be finalized. Panera Bread, a cafe/bakery with 1,500 locations across the country, became the first chain to voluntarily implement calorie labeling in 2010. McDonald’s, along with other chain restaurants, is already required to post calorie information on menus at its franchises in New York City, Philadelphia and a handful of other cities where such labeling is mandatory. While some studies have shown that posting calorie information has an effect on consumer choices, others have found that customers who go into a fast food restaurant with the intention of buying a certain item are not swayed by posted nutrition information. Panera says the step has had an impact on its patrons’ decisions. The company reported a 20 percent decrease in average calorie size of customer orders shortly after posting calorie information for the first time in April of 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal. As part of its new health kick, McDonald’s also announced the addition of new, healthier selections to its menu, including a grilled chicken Happy Meal, more seasonal fruits and vegetables and an egg white McMuffin, reported the New York Times.

Today the New York City Board of Health approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to limit the size of sugary soft drinks. Motivated by rising diet-related chronic diseases (along with healthcare costs), the Mayor’s attempt to rein in out-of-control portion sizes caused quite a media firestorm. Predictably, the soda lobby has come out swinging, complete with an industry front group called “New Yorkers for Beverage Choices.” A better name would be: “Soda Pushers for Continued Profits.” According to Beverage Digest, fountain sales (versus packaged) make up about 24 percent of the 9.3 billion cases of soda sold each year, or $18 billion in a total market worth of $75.7 billion. Coca-Cola will be especially impacted by cup size limits, as that company controls 70 percent of U.S. fountain sales, followed by Pepsi with 19 percent and Dr Pepper Snapple with 11 percent. While it’s obvious that the soda industry would be on the defense, largely missing from the debate so far has been the role of the fast food and restaurant industry as a significant driver of soft drink sales. (Due to legal constraints, the city’s soda proposal would only apply to food service establishments and not retailers). The fast food industry has gotten plenty of flak for pushing a diet of cheeseburgers, French fries, and other highly processed pseudo-foods, but they should also be recognized as a major purveyor of sugary beverages. For example, McDonald’s should be held accountable for its role in allowing the creeping up of cup sizes from a reasonable 7 ounces in 1955 to the current “large” of 32 ounces (310 calories for Coke), a more than 4-fold increase. Even a child size at 12 ounces is almost twice as large as the original. The fast food king has already expressed its displeasure with cup size limits, suggesting instead “a more collaborative and comprehensive approach.” No wonder, since Edward Jones estimates that five percent of McDonald’s revenue comes from soft drinks. Last year, McDonald’s revenue reached a record $27 billion; therefore at least $1.35 billion came from beverages. That figure may be too low, because according to the research firm Technomic, carbonated soft drinks account for about 10 percent of fast food and fast-casual restaurants sales in the U.S. Factor in the profit margins on such beverages–estimated to top 90 percent–and as Ad Age noted, “the potential impact on the bottom line becomes clear.” Whatever the figures, the money at stake here is huge–for both the beverage industry and the fast food industry. This explains why among those listed as alleged “New Yorkers for Beverage Choices” are not only the major soft drink companies but numerous restaurant chains, including: Carls’ Jr, Chick-Fil-A, Domino’s Pizza, Hardee’s and of course, the National Restaurant Association, whose members include McDonald’s. That trade group, along with its network of state restaurant associations, boasts more than 200 national, state and local lobbyists. The restaurant industry has fought against every common sense nutrition policy over the decades, including menu labeling and regulating marketing to children. Speaking of children, the downsizing of soft drinks will have an important impact on them as well. Children learn acceptable standards by what appears normal. McDonald’s has been teaching kids that supersized fries, Big Macs and large sodas are A-OK. By bring cups down to size, children get a better message. And that’s another reason McDonald’s and the rest of the fast food industry is teaming up with the soft drink lobby to stop this proposal. They don’t want kids to grow up thinking 16 ounces is normal, because that means setting kids up for a lifetime of saner (and healthier) drinking habits. Industry also knows that if limits are enacted in New York City, it’s only a matter of time before other cities around the nation follow Mayor Bloomberg’s lead. Get ready for the next front group to pop up in your area, but don’t fall for it. Instead, let’s tell McDonald’s and Coca-Cola that enough is enough. Michele Simon is a public health lawyer and an advisory board member and consultant for Corporate Accountability International. This post originally appeared on the Corporate Accountability blog September 11, 2012.

An employee of a McDonalds in San Diego, California was infected with Hepatitis A in late August and may have passed the virus on to consumers, warns the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. The McDonalds where the individual works is located inside the Walmart at 3412 College Avenue. Customers who ate at that restaurant between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. on August 25, 26, 27 or 30 may have been exposed to the virus and should contact their healthcare providers, health officials advise. Only one employee at the location was infected with the virus, and no illnesses have been reported among patrons, a representative for San Diego County HHSA told Food Safety News. Walmart shoppers who did not eat at the McDonalds in the store are not at risk of infection, say HHSA officials, according to the San Diego County Newsletter. Those who ate at the restaurant during the specified times may need to receive a Hepatitis A shot or immune globulin. The Hepatitis A shot is recommended for healthy individuals ages 12 months to 40 years old. People ages 41-59 may receive either the Hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin. For those aged 60 or older, children under 12 months and immunocompromised individuals, immune globulin is recommended. “The risk to the public is low, but anyone who ate at the restaurant on those dates and times should be aware of the signs and symptoms of Hepatitis A,” said Wilma Wooten, County Public Health Officer, according to the Newsletter. “Anyone who has been immunized with the Hepatitis A vaccine or previously had the disease is considered protected from the virus.” Hepatitis A vaccinations are available through primary healthcare providers, and will also be offered at the San Diego HHSA Central Regional Public Health Center, located at 5502 University Avenue, where shots will be given at little to no cost to patients. The Health Center will be holding a special clinic at this address on Saturday, September 8 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.. Hepatitis A immunizations will be given during that time. Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection appear between two and seven weeks after infection, and include low-grade fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain in the right side beneath the lower ribs (in the area of the liver), dark urine, muscle pain and jaundice (a yellowing of the eyes or skin). Some carriers of the virus don’t develop symptoms. Hepatitis A is spread via fecal matter and contracted by ingesting the virus. An important step in preventing the spread of infection is washing hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with warm soap and water.

Customers who ate at a McDonald’s in Northport, AL between February 28 and March 14 may have been exposed to hepatitis A through an infected employee, according to the Alabama Department of Health. 

In a news alert, state health officials advised customers who visited the McDonald’s at 2000 McFarland Blvd. in Northport any time on March 14, 2012, or during breakfast hours on March 16, 2012 to contact a health care provider as soon as possible.

They said customers who do not have a health care provider should contact the Tuscaloosa County Health Department at 205-562-6900.

“Hepatitis A vaccine and immune globulin can prevent hepatitis A virus infection, but only when given within 14 days of exposure,”  explained Dr. Donald Williamson, State Health Officer, in the news release. Therefore, individuals exposed on March 14 or 16, 2012, should receive treatment no later than this Friday, March 30.

People who have previously received hepatitis A vaccine are considered protected from this exposure.

Signs and symptoms of hepatitis A virus infection appear 2 to 6 weeks after exposure and commonly include mild fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tiredness, pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, dark urine, light stools, and jaundice (yellowness of eyes or skin). The disease varies in severity, from mild cases lasting 2 weeks or less to more severe cases lasting 4 to 6 weeks or longer.

Hepatitis A virus spreads when a person ingests contaminated food or water, or is exposed to contaminated objects. Persons are at increased risk of acquiring hepatitis A virus when they have been in close and continuous contact with an infected individual, particularly in a household. Frequent thorough handwashing with warm water and soap for 20 seconds is key to stopping the spread of hepatitis A virus. Handwashing should include the back of the hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.

Just weeks after launching an advertising campaign focused on food and quality safety in China, McDonalds is under fire for local food safety violations.

State-run China Central Television accused the company of selling chicken wings more than an hour and a half after they were cooked, which is about an hour past the company’s self-imposed rule. The report also said that workers prepared and served beef that had fallen on the floor.

The investigation was launched to mark World Consumer Rights Day on Wednesday.

“McDonald’s China attaches great importance to this,” the company responded on its website. “We will immediately investigate this isolated incident, resolutely deal with it earnestly and take concrete actions to apologize to consumers.”

The accusations could hurt consumer confidence in the company’s food, which has a broad reputation in China for being high quality and safe — especially against the backdrop of several years of food safety scandals.

The state media report also raises more questions about whether Chinese officials scrutinize foreign companies much more than they do local ones.

Chinese authorities fined retailer giant Walmart and ordered 13 stores closed for two weeks last year after finding that the company had been passing off regular pork as organic, which costs consumers more.

The report Wednesday also alleged that Carrefour, a Fernch retail chain, had been selling chicken past the expiration date and marking up conventional chicken as “free-range” to charge more for it.

McDonald’s is standing its ground after being sued Wednesday in California for marketing its Happy Meals to children.

The plaintiff in the class action lawsuit is Monet Parham, mother of two from Sacramento.   She is represented by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has been threatening such a lawsuit for months.

In the suit, McDonald’s is apparently not being accused of contributing to the Parham children’s obesity, but rather of having more control over them through Happy Meal marketing than the influence of their mother saying “no.”

“I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat,” Parham said in a news release.

Parham is the mother of Maya and Lauryn, ages 6 and 2, respectively.  The girls do not appear to have a weight problem.

McDonald’s spokeswoman Bridget Coffing said of the lawsuit, “We are proud of our Happy Meals and intend to vigorously defend our brand, our reputation, and our food.”

CSPI has been threatening McDonald’s since June, but the 32,000-outlet chain, which has restaurants ini 117 countries, has refused to play.  

Instead, McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner wrote to Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI’s executive director, telling him: “CSPI is wrong in its assertions, and frivolous in its legal threats.”

Skinner said McDonald’s menu has more choice and variety than ever before.  It also makes in-depth nutritional information available to parents.

In announcing the lawsuit, Jacobson said McDonald’s is still mostly in the business of selling “burgers or chicken nuggets, fries and sodas to very young children.”  

“In other words,” Jacobson said, “McDonald’s offerings consist mostly of fatty meat, fatty cheese, French fries, white flour, and sugar—a narrow combination of foods that promote weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases—and may lead to a lifetime of poor diets.”

Still, the lawsuit is apparently about whether McDonald’s “high tech” marketing is exploitive and strong enough to interfere with a family’s decisions.

“What kids see as a fun toy,” says Parham, “I now realize is a sophisticated, high-tech marketing scheme that was designed to put McDonald’s between me and my daughters.”

CSPI filed the lawsuit in California Superior Court in San Francisco, the only city in America that has essentially banned Happy Meals, setting nutritional standards for meals that use toys or other gimmicks to promote food for sale to children.  Joining in representing Parham is Richard Baker of Baker Law, P.C. in Birmingham.