Lawsuit claims Pizza Hut uses beef products in Veggie Lover's pie

May 2, 2002

SEATTLE -- Where's the beef?

According to a Seattle lawyer, it's in the cheese on Pizza Hut's Veggie Lover's pies.

According to a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, lawyer Harish Bharti has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 15 million vegetarians and 1 million Hindus in the U.S., claiming the world's largest pizza chain falsely promoted its veggie pizza.

Bharti also is the man who led the successful class-action suit against McDonald's that forced it to admit it used a beef extract in its french fries.

According to the Pizza Hut complaint, filed initially on April 1 in King County Superior Court but transferred to U.S. District Court in Seattle on May 1, "Defendants intentionally market their pizza to the vegetarian community knowing full well that the foods are not vegetarian."

"While they claim it's a vegetarian product, they have a beef product in their cheese," Bharti told the Post-Intelligencer. The practice, he added, is deceptive and harmful to vegetarians and Hindus who don't knowingly eat beef.

The complaint also states that Pizza Hut doesn't identify the amount of beef used in its ingredient list because it's the "secret ingredient" for flavor in its pizzas.

Patty Sullivan, spokeswoman for Dallas-based Pizza Hut, denied the charge, saying the company does not have any beef product in its pizzas.

In March, McDonald's settled its class-action suit regarding its little-known use of beef extract in its french fries. The settlement, which was granted preliminary approval by an Illinois state court judge, calls for McDonald's to apologize to its customers, create a vegetarian menu advisory board and pay $10 million to vegetarian and Hindu organizations.

The Pizza Hut suit seeks unspecified damages. It also claims the company violated consumer-protection laws, created emotional distress and made unjust profits at the expense of victims.

Plaintiffs also seek a promise from Pizza Hut that it will cease using beef products in its vegetarian pizzas or "immediately identify" the use of beef in their products.

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