Harish Bharti, the Seattle lawyer who successfully sued McDonald's for using beef extract in its french fries and won a settlement for $10 million, is now aiming his guns on another fast food giant. In a proposed class-action suit, filed on April 1 in King County Superior Court in Washington state, which was transferred to U.S. District Court in Seattle last Tuesday, Bharti claims that Pizza Hut used beef products in the "Veggie Lover's Pizza" while at the same time marketing it to the vegetarian community.
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of 15 million vegetarians and 1 million Hindus in the Unites States. The complaint contends that Pizza Hut's vegetarian products contain beef products and that Pizza Hut has "attempted to conceal this continual use of beef products from plaintiffs and the general public through duplicitous advertising and other means."
"Plaintiffs, who are all vegetarians for ethical, philosophical, moral and religious reasons, were induced to purchase and consume vegetarian pizza items sold as vegetarian products based upon false and misleading representation," it adds.
The suit claims that Pizza Hut does not identify the amount of beef product used in its ingredient list because it is considered a "secret ingredient" that is the source of the flavor of Pizza Hut pizza.
When contacted Patty Sullivan, spokeswoman for Dallas-based Pizza Hut, said : "We do not have beef product in our pizzas." With regards to the enzymes used in the pizzas she claimed that they are obtained from microbial sources, which are non-animal. She wouldn't comment beyond this because of the ongoing litigation.
Pizza Hut is owned by a multinational corporation, Tricon Global Restaurants, and has 8,084 outlets in the United States. There are approximately 12,100 Pizza Hut Locations worldwide.
The Pizza Hut lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages claiming that the company unjustly enriched itself while causing severe emotional distress including symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, vertigo, general malaise, and feeling of guilt, shame and sin, to the plaintiffs.
The 16 million strong American vegetarian community is increasingly asserting itself and is forcing the food industry to accommodate its needs. After a six month long campaign by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) last year, Burger King agreed to hold its suppliers accountable for upgraded standards of animal welfare. The company also became the first fast-food restaurant in America to add a veggie burger to all U.S. locations.
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