BRASÍLIA, DF (FOLHAPRESS) – Brazilian representatives of the fast food chains McDonald’s and Burger King sent letters to the Federal Senate in which they refute the accusation of misleading advertising with their sandwiches (respectively, McPicanha and Whopper Costela). The companies claim that they have always made it clear to consumers what the composition of the meat used was.
McDonald’s went further and stated that Brazilians are used to consuming and buying products whose names do not necessarily refer to their composition.
“Brazilian consumers are used to purchasing products that are identified by names that refer to the taste, aroma and experience they offer, and not necessarily to their composition”,
states an excerpt from the letter, obtained by the report.
The company also claims that using a sauce with that specific picanha flavor added more flavor to the sandwich than using the meat itself. He also adds that, when grinding the sirloin meat to produce the hamburger, it loses most of its properties, not transferring its characteristic flavor to the hamburger.
Representatives of the two fast food chains were invited to participate in a hearing at the Federal Senate on Thursday (12) to explain the cases. Both those responsible for McDonald’s in Brazil and for Burger King, however, warned the parliamentarians that they would not attend and decided to send letters with their justifications.
The hearing is still scheduled, at first, with the possible participation of representatives of Procon of the Federal District, Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency) and Idec (Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection).
In late April, the Justice Department notified McDonald’s after the chain publicly confirmed that the snacks in its newly launched McPicanha line are not made with picanha. The sandwich is actually made with a flavored sauce.
Consumers filed complaints in series on social networks, to the point that the network came to remove the sandwich from the menu across the country. Days later, however, he announced that he would be reincorporated, but with a new name. In a video on his Instagram page, the fast food giant said he “vailed” when choosing the name of the sandwich.
McPicanha will return to the menu with a new name, says McDonald’s: “Same flavor that people loved”
Days later, it was Burger King’s turn to be involved in a similar controversy. On Monday (2), Procon of the Federal District suspended the sale in the federal capital of the Whopper Ribs snack, which does not contain ribs. Burger King claims that the burger is made with pork shoulder and has a “natural rib flavor”.
In the letter sent to the Senate, Arcos Dourados Comércio de Alimentos, owner of McDonald’s in Brazil, reinforces that it suspended the sale of sandwiches from the “Novos McPicanha” series as soon as it saw the controversy. He said that he acted with “good faith and transparency” both in the development of products and in the placement of advertising campaigns.
“The sandwiches of this new line were developed to contain, in addition to the 100% beef hamburger, produced with selected cuts, with the largest size offered by the company, an exclusive sauce, picanha flavor (with a natural picanha flavor developed by Kerry do Brasil ) to bring consumers an even more intense experience of the Brazilian picanha flavor”,
The McDonald’s representative adds that the explanations that it was a beef burger with picanha-flavored sauce were all over the advertising and even on the sandwich packaging.
Burger King can be fined more than R$11 million, says Procon
Finally, it concludes that Brazilian consumers are used to this type of practice.
“For decades, products have been marketed in Brazil that bear the flavor or aroma they bear in their name, but that do not necessarily contain the raw material that gives rise to that flavor, in their composition. It should also be noted that, especially the mention of flavors, it is an absolutely common practice, with which consumers are widely used”
Rib Whopper without Ribs
BK Brasil, the master franchisee in Brazil of the Burger King brand, also highlighted that the composition of the Whopper Costela sandwich has always been known to consumers and Brazilian authorities. He mentioned that the snack was registered with the “Ministry of the Environment, Agriculture and Livestock” – in fact there would be two folders, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply.
It would be informed to the authorities, therefore, that the hamburger is composed of 95% pork meat and the rest are seasoning ingredients.
“It is clarified that the Whopper Rib burger for pork with the aroma –and flavor– of pork ribs. This information was clear and available to the consumer throughout the marketing period: the flavor was rib meat, not the cut of rib meat”, states an excerpt from the letter sent to the Senate.
The company also claims that several products in the food sector qualify their flavors without containing the corresponding raw material. He cites as an example strawberry flavored ice cream that does not contain the fruit.
BK Brasil also claims that the repercussion was “abnormal” and “unjustified” and that it caused a “frenzy” in the search by some consumers for product names or advertising claims that did not match the ingredients in natura.
The company also adds that it changed the name of the sandwich to Whopper Paleta Suína in the name of transparency and for its policy of maintaining an ongoing dialogue with its consumers.
“Therefore, far from characterizing a confession of guilt or assumption of responsibility, BK Brasil took this decision out of respect for the consumer”, states the text of the letter.
Author of the request for the hearing, Senator Nelsinho Trad (PSD-MS) points out that the justifications presented by the companies do not fully correspond to the facts, considering that the observations on the composition of the hamburgers were in small size.
“We cannot treat the case as a mere mistake in the publicity campaign. In one of the cases, the sandwich is named after a cut of meat, it is disclosed in an image in which the snack appears next to the same cut and only in the fine print, very fine, by the way, it is clarified that it is ‘ rib flavor”,
told the report.
“In the other case, also in small print on a banner, it is written that the campaign is valid for people over 12 years old. What is the problem for consumption below this age group? Respecting everyone’s right to health and to accurate and detailed information about products is a principle that should guide all the actions of those who intend to act in the market. It is important that this case be treated with the utmost seriousness and that it serve as an example. The Brazilian consumer is demanding and attentive”, he adds.