Girl's parents claim undercooked burger caused kidney failure

SEOUL • The parents of a South Korean girl have filed a complaint against McDonald's Korea, claiming their daughter became permanently ill after eating a burger with an undercooked patty.

They said their four-year-old was diagnosed with haemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a food-borne disease that mostly results in acute kidney failure, reported Yonhap news agency. According to the mother, the child ate a hamburger at a McDonald's outlet in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi province, last September and fell ill about three hours later, said The Korea Herald.

The girl was taken to an intensive care unit three days later, where she was diagnosed with HUS. Her symptoms worsened and she had diarrhoea with blood in her stools.

The child was discharged from the hospital two months later, but has lost 90 per cent of her kidney function, the newspaper said.

She now spends 10 hours a day receiving dialysis through a tube inserted in her abdomen because her kidneys are permanently damaged, said Yonhap.

"The four-year-old victim had no health problems but caught haemolytic-uremic syndrome after eating a McDonald's hamburger," lawyer Hwang Da-yeon said at a press conference held before the Seoul District Prosecutors' Office, prior to submitting the complaint, according to The Korea Herald.

Yonhap reported that the family has sued the local unit of McDonald's for serving undercooked meat in the Happy Meal burger that the girl had eaten.

"I cannot turn back time and I can only wish for (my daughter) to get better," the mother, identified only as Choi, told The Korea Herald.

The lawyer said McDonald's had done "nothing to inform" customers of the risk of developing HUS after eating burgers.

"Although they claim that it's impossible to serve undercooked meat as all foods are cooked mechanically, it has been found that some stores failed to fully cook the food by putting the grill on a wrong setting or not placing the meat in the right position."

Yonhap reported that McDonald's had issued a statement expressing regret over the incident and vowing to fully cooperate in the investigation.

But The Korea Herald said the McDonald's outlet involved has denied any links between its product and the child's illness, saying the meat was machined-cooked, thereby eliminating human error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2017, with the headline 'Girl's parents claim undercooked burger caused kidney failure'. Print Edition | Subscribe