If you find yourself craving a McDonald’s Royal Cheeseburger, you may be out of luck … at least in Russia.
The Russian federal consumer protection agency — Rospotrebnadzor — has filed a lawsuit with a Moscow court that would ban the famous cheeseburger, as well as such classics as the Filet-o-Fish, the Chicken Burger, and shakes of all flavors. The iconic American fast-food chain has already been fined 70,000 rubles (about $2,000) for "irregularities." And now Russian officials claim some products are illegal because they display "inappropriate physical-chemical parameters." That’s legalese for the nutritional information on packaging and tray-liners, like total calories and fat content.
In a statement to NBC News, McDonald’s in Russia said it hasn’t been contacted by the federal agency and is unaware of any lawsuit. It said its ingredients and cooking methods are fully approved by Russian food authorities.
"One of the main priorities for McDonald’s in Russia is the quality and safety of the products that we provide to our customers," said Nina Prosolova, a McDonald’s representative. Earlier this week, the fast food giant reported that it was seeing a softness in its sales in Russia, helping to lead to another tough quarter for McDonald's.
"It’s a piece of America!"
Recently, the company — a 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics sponsor — has been a lightning rod for political tension between Russia and Ukraine. Three months ago, it closed its restaurants in Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula and the West responded with targeted sanctions. At the time, McDonald’s officials said conditions had become too difficult to operate: ethnic Russian protesters had attacked the chain, and some Russian politicians called for all of its 400 outlets to be shut down.
Since then, the Kremlin has occasionally warned of ‘retaliatory’ actions against U.S. and Western interests in Russia as Washington and Brussels launched yet more sanctions. And the European Union is meeting next week to introduce — potentially — its strongest sanctions yet if Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t taken steps to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine.
Interestingly the Big Mac itself has not been blacklisted. That’s perhaps because it’s what Russians are still lovin’ the most.
In 1990, when McDonald’s opened its first Russian branch in Moscow off Mayakovsky Square — the world’s largest McDonald's outlet at the time — the line of Soviet customers stretched a mile along Gorki Street. Whole families would buy a dozen Big Macs at a time, and little else. They’d sit and chat, slowly eat one burger. Then smoke and chat some more. Then eat another. The picnic could last hours. When asked by a reporter why they ate their fast-food so slowly, one replied, smiling, "It’s a piece of America!"
But it could be the next victim of a proxy war that now even has burgers in its cross hairs.
First published July 25 2014, 8:56 AM
In a career spanning 40 years, Jim Maceda has covered more than 100 countries and many conflicts, terrorist attacks and natural disasters, as well as cultural and human interest stories. He has interviewed dozens of world leaders. Over the years, Maceda has reported from the front lines of Rhodesia, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, and Chechnya, as well as on the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, including NATO airstrikes in Serbia and Kosovo. He is the veteran of scores of embeds in Afghanistan and Iraq, doing stories on the U.S. Army, Marines and Special Forces as well as insurgents and civilians torn apart by war. Since 1999, Maceda has been based in London.
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Maceda was named NBC News' Germany correspondent in 1994, based in Frankfurt, from where he covered Eastern Europe, the Bosnian civil war and peacekeeping missions in the former Yugoslavia and Haiti. In addition, he covered major breaking news in Iran, Russia, China and the Middle East.
In 1990 Maceda became the NBC News Moscow correspondent, covering an array of stories from the Soviet Union and Russia, including the attempted coup on then-President Mikhail G. Gorbachev and the fall of the Soviet Union. In February 1992 Maceda became the first foreign TV correspondent to gain access to a secret nuclear city in Siberia, named K-26, which housed the biggest plutonium weapons factory in the former Soviet Union. Maceda also covered the civil war and the failed U.S. peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
Maceda was based in Manila from 1988 to 1990 as an NBC News Asia reporter and producer. He covered a wide range of datelines, including the Cambodian War, the Burma Revolt, the Drug War in Colombia and the Panama Invasion. In 1989 he won an Emmy for his reporting on the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing.
From 1984 to 1988, Maceda was a senior news producer in London. During that time, he was part of the first U.S. television team to cover the devastating famine in Ethiopia. In 1988 he won an Emmy for his coverage of the Palestinian Intifada, or Uprising, the same year he made his switch to on-air reporting. He also served as the acting bureau chief for NBC News in Manila in 1986, during the People Power Revolt and fall of Ferdinand Marcos.
Maceda was the deputy bureau chief and producer for NBC News in Tel Aviv from 1981 to 1983 where he covered major events including Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, its handing over of the Sinai to Egypt and the 1982 Lebanon War. While in Beirut, he produced the heralded 17-part "Lebanon Diary" series.
Maceda got his start in journalism as an associate producer for CBS News in Paris, from 1973 to 1976. As a freelance reporter and producer for French TV from 1976 to 1980, he was the first to secure a joint interview for a European TV network with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat after the Camp David Accords. In 1980 he joined NBC News' Paris Bureau as an associate producer and researcher.
Maceda has won numerous awards and citations, including an Edward R. Murrow award for his coverage of the 7/7 London terror bombings, seven Emmy nominations, four Overseas Press Club awards, and three National Headliner awards. In 1991 he received the Olive Branch Award from Columbia University for his stories on Russian nuclear proliferation. Maceda has had the distinction of reporting exclusively for two, long-running news series on "Nightly News with Brian Williams": "Putinâ€™s Russia" (2007-2008) and "Far From Home" (in Afghanistan, 2010-12).
Maceda graduated from Stanford University in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He then pursued post-graduate studies at the Paris Sorbonne. He is married to Cindy Lilles, has a grown daughter from a previous marriage, and is the doting grandpa of three young girls.