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Not A Happy Meal: Russia's Top Health Official Slams Hamburgers And Sushi

Russia's top health inspector has described McDonald's sandwiches as "an excuse for food."
Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s chief health inspector, has called on citizens to stop eating hamburgers.

Onishchenko's comments on July 23 came following reports that worms were found in a McChicken sandwich from a McDonald's restaurant in Moscow.

Onishchenko, the country's top health official, told the Interfax news agency that he was prepared to conduct an inspection of the restaurant if the woman lodges an official complaint. He referred to the McChicken sandwich as "an excuse for food."

Then, Onishchenko turned his ire at hamburgers.

"I would like to remind our fellow citizens that hamburgers, even without worms, are not a good choice of a meal for residents of Moscow and of Russia. This is not our cuisine."

On July 23, the Kommersant FM radio station interviewed a woman who gave her name as "Mariya” who said she found worms in the box containing her McChicken sandwich.

“We got into the car and I began to eat the McChicken,” she said. “I’d eaten more than half and at some point I saw there was a worm on the cardboard box which the food comes in... Then I saw inside the actual box there was another worm on a lettuce leaf from the sandwich."

According to the report, McDonald's refunded Mariya's money for the sandwich.

Despite repeated attempts, McDonald's could not be reached for comment.

Onischenko's hamburger warning marked the second time this summer that he has counseled Russians to opt for national cuisine over foreign dishes.

Last month he recommended that people stop eating sushi, sparking a series of inspections that reportedly uncovered nearly 100 violations and restaurants paying 694,000 rubles ($21,400) in fines, the RIA-Novosti reported.

Onishchenko has a history of giving medical advice and issuing warnings about imported food and drink that assist the Kremlin's political goals.

Amid unprecedented anti-Putin protests last December, for example, Onishchenko warned Russians not to take to the streets lest they succumb to the winter weather and catch a cold.

In the past he has also ruled that Moldovan and Georgian wines were unfit for consumption and banned them, decimating one of the countries’ most lucrative export industries at a time when Chisinau and Tbilisi’s relations with Russia had hit a low.

He has also taken aim at Ukrainian cheese and Belarusian milk at times when Moscow's relations with those countries were strained.

There was no obvious political context to these latest comments.

-- Tom Balmforth

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