'Where's The Beef?'

October 28, 1994|By Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- That little old lady who used to shill for Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers wasn't the last person to ask, "Where's the beef?"

On Wednesday, city Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Bennett Levin asked it of Wendy's. And when the answer came up short, he seized 984 burgers for being just a bite or two under their advertised weight -- and distributed them throughout the city to homeless shelters and an emergency foster-care center.

Inspectors from his department found that a sample of 24 uncooked hamburgers advertised as quarter-pounders actually weighed as much as a quarter-ounce less.

They confiscated three crates of burgers from the Wendy's and assessed $98,400 in fines, at a rate of $100 a burger, in accordance with federal Department of Agriculture guidelines.

A spokesman for Wendy's said Wednesday's action was the first time any Wendy's had been so cited in the company's 25-year history. He vowed to fix the problem, noting that the missing meat amounted to "less than 10 one-thousandths of a pound." He attributed the short weights to "evaporation of moisture that occurs whenever you use the finest fresh ground beef."

Wednesday's action was no gimmick, Mr. Levin said, but is part of a campaign to check the claims of all the city's restaurants and supermarkets.

"We're trying to tell the people of this city that when they buy something they can do it with confidence," he said.

Mr. Levin said similar inspections earlier this year found short-weighted burgers at one McDonald's restaurant in Philadelphia and at several other area restaurants.

The McDonald's must get a second visit before any action may be taken, Mr. Levin said.

For Wendy's, the second visit came Wednesday. The first visit came in August, after which Mr. Levin sent a "Dear Dave" letter to Wendy's President David Thomas. In it, Mr. Levin informed Mr. Thomas that the quarter-pound beef patties at the North Philadelphia restaurant had been found as much as one-eighth ounce short of their advertised weight.

"Please consider this my invitation to visit our fair city, because some of our citizens are asking, 'Where's the Beef?' " Mr. Levin wrote.

Mr. Levin received no reply.

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