McDonald’s announced this week it would no longer serve halal food two of its restaurants in Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb where 41 percent of residents are of Arab ancestry.
The restaurants were the only two McDonald’s in the country that had served halal food, which requires animals be slaughtered according to Islamic practices.
The decision follows a $700,000 settlement between McDonald’s and a customer, Ahmed Ahmed, who sued the franchise in 2011, alleging that the halal McChicken and halal Chicken McNuggets were not always prepared properly.
McDonald’s elaborated in a statement about its decision: "We take into account local and dietary preferences, however these items were offered as an exception to McDonald's national core food menu in these two restaurants only.”
McDonald’s said it was discontinuing the products to “focus on our national core menu."
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In the settlement, one franchisee said it "has a carefully designed system for preparing and serving halal such that halal chicken products are labeled, stored, refrigerated and cooked in halal-only areas." The company also said it had educated employees about halal food preparation and "requires strict adherence to the process."
Earlier this year, a McDonald's attorney said that if a problem had arisen, "it was isolated and rare."
Victor Ghalib Begg, a senior advisor at the Michigan Muslim Community Council, said McDonald's decision is sad for observant Muslim families with children who like to visit the fast-food chain, but it's not likely to make a difference in Dearborn, where many alternatives exist.
"There's no shortage of halal restaurants, particularly here in Michigan," he said. When diners can't find halal meat, many substitute fish or kosher food, which differs slightly.
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"When my wife and I travel and we can't find a halal restaurant, we look for a seafood restaurant or a vegetarian one so we have no trouble at all finding any restaurant to eat," Begg said.
The McDonald's decision reduces the number of large restaurant chains with halal-friendly locations. The halal-food finder app Zabihah organizes halal restaurants by location but includes few large chains. Among them: Crown Fried Chicken & Deli, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway and Outback Steakhouse.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.