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Judge: KFC franchisee cannot advertise chicken as halal

KFC prohibits franchisees from making religious dietary claims about their food. Photo by Johnny Silvercloud/Creative Commons

(RNS) — The owner of eight Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in Illinois may not advertise that the chicken he sells is halal, even if it is, a federal judge has ruled.

The owner of the franchises, Afzal Lokhandwala, a Muslim, sued KFC, arguing that the chain had initially agreed to allow him to advertise that his chicken met Islamically approved slaughter requirements beginning in 2002.

But Judge John Robert Blakey of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled that KFC has “the absolute right” to approve or deny any advertising by franchise owners in their stores.

In 2009, the fast-food chain decided it could not promise halal food — required by observant Muslims — or kosher food — required by observant Jews — because of varying interpretations of what constitutes acceptable food within those religious groups. The chain said it could also not certify that some chicken parts were not cross-contaminated with nonhalal or nonkosher parts.

Lokhandwala’s halal advertising had proved to be quite lucrative for his businesses — so much so, he said in the suit, that he selected the locations for the five franchises he opened in 2012 because of their proximity to Muslim communities. He also said the 2009 policy would force him to close some of his restaurants.

The chicken-on-the-bone products Lokhandwala sold came from halal-certified poultry processors that KFC approved. The chicken tenders were not, and Lokhandwala informed customers of the difference.

“Thousands of Muslims within the Chicago metropolitan area eat at plaintiffs’ restaurants because they know Afzal is Muslim and the restaurants sell halal chicken,” according to the complaint.

Lokhandwala argued that KFC never mentioned the policy change and asked the judge to declare that enforcement of the policy is in bad faith.

But the judge found that the contract gives KFC complete control over how its product is marketed.

“The franchise agreement unambiguously entitles Defendant to control Plaintiff’s advertising or marketing at his franchises,” he wrote.

Lokhandwala immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1989. He first worked as an assistant manager at a KFC on the South Side of Chicago.

About the author

Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is an RNS National Reporter and Senior Editor.

14 Comments

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  • As-Salaam-Alaikum, brother Afzal Lokhandwala. But dude, contract is contract; what more do you want? The contract you signed with KFC compels you to:

    (1) “[Adhere] to KFC’s reasonable present and future requirements regarding … advertising”!

    (2) “[Use] only … advertising and promotional material … which meet[s] KFC’s standards and specifications (as established from time to time) … at the Outlet or in connection with its business”!

  • If the franchise contract is clear, then it’s clear. It seems to me the answer would be for the owner to develop his own recipe and brand. If a main draw of his franchises was that he met halal requirements, he should do well.

  • The franchise agreement seems clear enough. Caveat franchisee. It sounds like KFC Corp. believes that the cost of possible liability from selling purportedly halal food that is not halal outweighs any possible profit from increased halal customers. There were some kosher Subways in NYC a few years ago but they’ve closed. Maybe it was a similar issue.

  • I hope Afzal Lokhandwala does form his own brand and succeed, but as I understand the case, KFC was allowing him to advertise his chicken as halal, but then when they changed their policy in 2009 they failed to give him proper notice, causing him to invest in five new stores that are now virtually worthless.

  • Let’s see. We’ve had various iterations of Colonel Sanders over the past few years, including an Extra Crispy Colonel, a Georgia Gold Colonel and a Wrestling Colonel.

    Surely there’s room for the Halal Colonel. How about a duet with him and the Kosher Colonel? I can see it now. Finger lickin’ and world peace in a single stroke.

  • If there was universal Muslim agreement on what constituted Halal, I’d agree with you. Without that agreement among Muslims, I can understand why KFC is being cautious.

  • IMHO that would be excellent grounds for demanding that KFC reimburse him for the costs incurred setting up the new stores, but not for the courts to require KFC to allow the Halal advertising. If KFC was to choose to permit the advertising for some predetermined period instead of paying the reimbursement, that would be the company’s decision.

  • I imagine if they actually had a Muslim Colonel Sanders, disagreements on Halal would be the least of their problems.

  • Interesting what Wikipedia has filed away here:

    “Since 2003, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has protested KFC’s choice of poultry suppliers worldwide. The exception is KFC Canada, which signed an agreement pledging to only use ‘animal friendly’ suppliers. … President of KFC’s US division Gregg Dedrick said PETA mischaracterized KFC as a poultry producer rather than a purchaser of chickens. In 2008, Yum! stated: ‘[As] a major purchaser of food products, [Yum!] has the opportunity and responsibility to influence the way animals supplied to us are treated. We take that responsibility very seriously, and we are monitoring our suppliers on an ongoing basis.’ … In December 2012, the chain was criticized in China when it was discovered that a number of KFC suppliers had been using growth hormones and an excessive amount of antibiotics on its poultry in ways that violated Chinese law. In February 2013, Yum! CEO David Novak admitted that the scandal had been ‘longer lasting and more impactful than we ever imagined.’ The issue is of major concern to Yum!, which earns almost half of its profits from China, largely through the KFC brand. In March 2013, Yum! reported that sales had rebounded in February, but that lower sales in December and January would result in a decline in same-store sales of 20 percent in the first quarter.”

  • What “disagreement among Muslims”?

    According to Wikipedia’s sources, to be halal “the food must come from a supplier that uses halal practices. … The prescribed … method of slaughtering animals consists of using a well-sharpened knife to make a swift, deep incision that cuts the front of the throat, the carotid artery, trachea, and jugular veins. The head of an animal that is slaughtered using halal methods is aligned with the qiblah [in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca]. In addition to the direction, permitted animals should be slaughtered upon utterance of the Islamic prayer ‘Bismillah … in the name of God’. The slaughter must be performed by a Muslim. Blood must be drained from the veins. Carrion (carcasses of dead animals, such as animals who died in the wild) cannot be eaten. Additionally, an animal that has been strangled, beaten (to death), killed by a fall, gored (to death), savaged by a beast of prey (unless finished off by a human), or sacrificed on a stone altar cannot be eaten. … In Sunni Islam, animals slaughtered by Christians or Jews is halal only if the slaughter is carried out by jugular slice and mentioned before slaughter that the purpose is of permissible consumption and the slaughter is carried out following the name of the God (indicating that you are grateful for God’s blessings), unless explicitly prohibited, like pork. The requirement to invoke Allah’s name is a must.”

  • They have KFC in many Muslim majority countries. So technically there are “Muslim Colonel Sanders” out there.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_with_KFC_franchises

    So its not like the corporate HQ doesn’t know how to set up halal restaurants. Its really more an issue with their US supply chain.

    Could be worse. In Japan Colonel Sanders allegedly hexed the baseball team Hanshin Tigers. Preventing them from winning a championship for 18 years.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_the_Colonel

  • KFC is a Nationally known brand of Chicken, I don’t know if it is Internationally known, but in my humble opinion and due to the huge amount of population of people that simply love love love KFC, I think it is unjustifiable for this Muslim man that owns all those KFC restaurants to even ask to have the chicken prepared halal just for the Muslim customer’s? See that just does’nt work here in America, especially with a KFC franchise. I know these people have come to America and all, but they can expect to come over here and change the way our culture is, with our food, clothes, worship, and family values. If anything because they are the visitor’s, it might be best to go “with with the flow ” in America.

  • Yes, and all the Muslim Scholars go to Wikipedia to check on whether they’re defining Halal the right way. The “differences” can be as minor as “The cutting of the trachea, esophagus, carotid arteries and jugular veins is required. However, in most scholars, cutting three out of four is acceptable.” That sentence alone, from this paper on the subject (https://bit.ly/2oGopxm) tells you that there are differences of opinion by Islamic scholars. There also seems to be a difference of opinion about whether “stunning” or other procedures to render the animal unconscious are allowed – again from the same article : “…some Muslims insist that the animal must be conscious at the time of slaughtering.”

    Since what makes meat Halal is open to some interpretation, it is definitely something that KFC has no interest in getting involved in – which makes sense from a corporate standpoint.

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