Maharashtra Expands Cheese Probe to Global Fast-Food Chains

**Maharashtra State Intensifies Checks on Fast-Food Chains for Cheese Authenticity**

In a move that could spell trouble for international fast-food giants, Maharashtra, India’s second-most populous state, has announced plans to inspect outlets of renowned global brands for potential mislabeling of cheese products. The state’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expanding its scrutiny to include various fast-food chains after initiating a crackdown on McDonald’s.

The state FDA’s chief, Abhimanyu Kale, confirmed that inspectors would be dispatched to all McDonald’s locations and other major fast-food outlets to ensure compliance with display and labeling regulations. This decision comes in the wake of allegations that some McDonald’s products contained cheese analogues—substitutes made from vegetable oil—instead of real cheese.

Westlife Foodworld, which operates McDonald’s in western and southern India, has been at the center of the controversy. Despite defending its use of “real cheese,” the franchisee altered the names of several menu items, dropping the word “cheese” from their titles, as per documents reviewed by Reuters.

The news has already impacted the market, with shares of Westlife Foodworld dropping by up to 6.7% following the report. Similarly, Devyani International, which manages brands like Pizza Hut and KFC in India, saw its shares decline by 4%.

Saurabh Kalra, Managing Director of Westlife, expressed the company’s readiness for inspections and emphasized their commitment to the “highest standards” of quality. However, other major players like Jubilant FoodWorks, Restaurant Brands Asia, and Sapphire Foods have yet to comment on the situation.

The intensified checks come at a challenging time for fast-food outlets in Maharashtra, as they grapple with inflationary pressures and a consumer base seeking more affordable dining options. The state’s authorities have the authority to suspend licenses if establishments are found misleading consumers—a measure that was briefly enacted against a McDonald’s outlet last year before being overturned on appeal.

As global brands navigate these regulatory waters, consumers remain vigilant about the authenticity of ingredients in their favorite fast-food offerings. The state’s actions underscore the importance of transparency and adherence to food safety standards in an increasingly discerning market.

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