food / travel

Germany Dumps McDonald's From School Nutrition Program

Parents and health experts in had voiced outrage that the American fast-food giant was behind a program to teach German students about good nutrition.

"Ich liebe es" ... NOT.
"Ich liebe es" ... NOT.
Silvia Liebrich

MUNICH — That fast food chain McDonald's should be involved in giving nutrition advice in German schools sparked widespread anger when the program emerged a little over a year ago.

Now after repeated protests from both parents and experts, the German Consumer Protection Foundation has ended its cooperation with the U.S. chain in terms of food education in schools, Berlin-based foodwatch — an independent nonprofit organization that monitors the food industry — has just announced.

Some 37,000 people had signed a petition to have the McDonald’s presence removed from schools. McDonald’s had described the company's commitment last year to healthy nutrition for children as “a contribution, as a responsible company in the food industry, to society,” rather than offering hands-on education programs in schools.

A McDonald's restaurant in Magdeburg — Photo: Tim

News that it was booted off the project was not well received at McDonald’s HQ, a spokesperson told Süddeutsche Zeitung. "We are extremely irritated at having been dropped from the program as well as with the way that was handled. No real reasons were given for the dismissal, nor was there any personal discussion," said the spokesperson, who noted that the consumer foundation itself had invited McDonald’s to be part of the program.

Foodwatch considers the exclusion of the fast food chain to be the first in a series of steps that must be taken. "Schools should be free of commercial interests," says foodwatch expert Oliver Huizinga.

The protests went beyond McDonald’s to include all other private firms that were a part of the "Bündnis für Verbraucherbildung" (Alliance for Consumer Education) program. In the food industry these include Metro, Edeka, Rewe and Tchibo. Other firms that are part of the alliance include Deutsche Telekom, Commerzbank and the ING-Diba bank.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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