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McHoax targets burger giant’s Canadian wing

A new viral hoax e-mail in circulation has the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association and the e-mail’s alleged author stepping up to the defense of McDonald’s Canada.

The viral e-mail, which has been posted on a substantial number of publicly available blogs and has been spreading at the same rate as other chain e-mails of its type, claims that the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association (ACFA) has learned McDonald’s plans to begin importing South American beef to supply Canadian restaurants.

“The problem is that South Americans aren’t under the same regulations as Canadian beef producers, and the regulations they have are loosely controlled,” claims one version of the e-mail, which purports to be authored by an Ontario resident named “Larry Latam” and goes so far as to provide phone numbers in both Windsor and London, Ont.

But “Larry’s” e-mail, which goes on to propose a boycott of McDonald’s in Canada, has already been denounced as a hoax, both by the ACFA and by the owner of the two Ontario phone numbers.

Calls to either number are routed directly to a voice-mail message which identifies the speaker as Larry and assures the caller that the e-mail is “totally bogus” and he had nothing to do with its creation.

The ACFA’s website also offers visitors a link to a statement from McDonald’s Canada which assures that the e-mail is a hoax. ACFA CEO Bryan Walton said Tuesday that the association has been aware of the e-mail for the past couple of weeks.

Snopes.com, a well-regarded site debunking “urban legends” and assorted e-mail hoaxes, also refutes the McDonald’s e-mail, which as of Wednesday was No. 7 on Snopes’ list of the “25 urban legends currently circulating most widely, as determined by frequency of access, user searches, reader e-mail, and media coverage.”

Circulating since 2002

As for McDonald’s itself, the Toronto-based Canadian wing of the U.S. burger giant on Wednesday issued a statement from senior vice-president Jeff Kroll, who said that “the past week has brought some unwarranted attention — in the form of a viral e-mail — with regards to McDonald’s Canada’s beef purchasing practices which contained information that was completely false.”

McDonald’s Canada currently sources 100 per cent of its beef from farms and ranches across Canada and the company has “no plans today to purchase any beef from South America,” Kroll said, in a version of the company’s statement already posted on the ACFA and Snopes sites.

“In the past the company has purchased small quantities of beef from New Zealand, Australia and the U.S., but has always sourced the vast majority of its beef from Canada,” Kroll continued.

McDonald’s also offers a defense from Brad Wildeman, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and of Pound-Maker AgVentures at Lanigan, Sask.

“There’s absolutely no truth to this rumour,” Wildeman said in McDonald’s statement. “McDonald’s Canada has been a long-time supporter of the Canadian beef industry. We’ve always enjoyed a positive relationship with McDonald’s Canada over the years and have every confidence that this will continue into the future.”

Kroll’s statement also outlines the origin of the e-mail, which he said has been circulating in a different form in the U.S. since 2002, referencing the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) and claiming the restaurant chain’s U.S. operations planned to source their beef from South America.

In a statement on its website, Amarillo-based TCFA also rips the e-mail as a hoax. “No such message has ever been put out by our organization. Unfortunately, we do not know the identity or motive of the person or persons making this improper use of our name.”

According to McDonald’s Kroll, the U.S. version of the e-mail resurfaced in 2005, 2007 and 2008, followed this year by the Canadian version, which he said is “practically identical to the one that originated in the U.S.”

“McDonald’s Canada remains one of the largest purchasers of Canadian beef, and we are proud supporters of the Canadian beef industry,” Kroll wrote.

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