- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

OSLO (AP) Humanitarian groups criticized McDonald's for a new sandwich called the McAfrika, saying the offering is poorly timed because millions of Africans are facing starvation.
But aid officials Saturday welcomed an agreement by the fast-food restaurant chain to inform customers about the potential famine in southern Africa and tell them how they can help, Tarje Wanvik of the group Norwegian Church Aid said.
McDonald's was stung by bad publicity in the Norwegian media last week when it announced that the new sandwich, made of beef and vegetables and wrapped in pita bread, will be sold at 15 restaurants in Oslo. The sandwich was advertised as being based on African recipes.
"There was nothing wrong with the name. It was the timing," Mr. Wanvik said. "They launched it just as a famine in Africa is starting."
Aid groups fear that as many as 13 million people are in danger of starvation in several southern African nations. They called the U.S. fast-food giant's campaign "distasteful."
McDonald's Norway spokeswoman Margaret Brusletto said McDonald's was "very happy with the solution that was reached" with Norwegian Church Aid and the Norwegian Red Cross.
She said the groups would be able to put collection boxes inside restaurants where McAfrika is sold and promote their campaigns with tray liners and posters.
Last week, Norwegian Church Aid marked the introduction of the McAfrika burger by gathering outside one of the McDonald's restaurants in Oslo, where they handed out crackers used as emergency rations for starving people.
Mr. Wanvik said his group actually liked the name McAfrika and the campaign because it makes the food and Africa itself sound exotic and positive.
"But it was unlucky timing," he said. "We are very happy with the agreement we have reached with McDonald's."
The dispute came just before the United Nations opened a 10-day summit in Johannesburg yesterday to discuss ways to reduce by half the more than 1 billion people without access to clean water and the more than 2 billion without proper sanitation in coming years.
Mr. Wanvik said there was no connection. "The timing only had to do with 13 million people in danger in Africa," he said.
The McAfrika sandwich will be sold as part of a rotating exotic food series in Norway, which has 60 McDonald's restaurants.

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