The Surprising Way A Chicken Sandwich Got McDonald's Australia Into Legal Trouble

In the 90's, McDonald's restaurants in Australia began selling an enticing new sandwich called the Grilled Chicken Burger. McDonald's customers believed the burger was made with tender pieces of real grilled chicken placed between two buns, which they could be forgiven for believing because that was how the burgers were being advertised, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). However, those customers were sorely mistaken. It soon came to light that McDonald's Australia had been significantly stretching the truth when it came to the preparation of their "grilled" chicken. 

As it turned out, the so-called "Grilled Chicken Burger" had never even touched a real grill before it was served to customers. Instead, it was actually baked in a jet steam oven, then seared with artificial grill marks on a rotary brander before being frozen and shipped out to individual McDonald's locations. Upon arrival, the patties were thawed and heated in between two sets of hot plates, and then sold to unsuspecting customers that were under the impression they were eating a piece of grilled chicken.

McDonald's Australia was forced to stop advertising the Grilled Chicken Burger as "grilled"

According to the ACCC, this practice was intentionally misleading and constituted false advertising on behalf of the fast food brand. "When purchasing 'fast food' consumers increasingly place considerable importance on the way the food is prepared," ACCC Chairman, Allan Fels explained in a statement. "If retailers advertise foods as being prepared in a way which consumers are likely to demand, they must ensure their claims match reality. This chicken burger was initially cooked in an oven, branded and seared and then cooked between two hot plates" (via Scoop). 

This false claim violated the Trade Practices Act 1974 through "misleading or deceptive conduct" and "a false representation, with respect to the qualities and history of the burger," per the ACCC. Under Australian law, McDonald's was forced to cease any promotional events and immediately stop advertising their Grilled Chicken Burgers as grilled. For their part, McDonald's cooperated with the ACCC's ruling, and agreed to stop advertising and promoting the product as such.