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We continue to get email regarding our story about a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee who was forced to give up the business he’d owned since 1979. The reason? Walid Elkhatib is a Muslim, and is forbidden by his faith from handling any pork products. When he invested in a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in 1979, it did not sell breakfast sandwiches. When the company did introduce them in 1984, it allowed him to not carry them, and to post signs that said “no meat products available.” But it changed its mind, and Elkhatib lost the franchise…and I commented that “You’d think that there would be a better way to handle this. I would argue that Dunkin’ Donuts would look a lot better if it could find a way to accommodate this man’s religious beliefs, even if it meant deviating from the strict franchising agreement. Sure, there would be complications … but isn’t it better to actually be a little tolerant, especially these days?”

One MNB user responded:

Who's the one who got to decide that religious beliefs are more important than anything else . . . let alone everything else? Seems to me this guy has an easy decision: Either execute his franchisor's strategy to his best ability or find another line of work that conforms to his idiosyncrasies.

Fascinating. I wonder how most Christians would respond if I described their tenets as “idiosyncrasies.”

MNB user Clay Dockery wrote:

Franchisees are the face of a company and that company has the right to ensure that their brand is protected in a multitude of ways. Otherwise, you, the consumer, may just shop elsewhere.

I don't pretend to understand the Muslim requirements with respect to handling pork, but would hope that the owner could ensure the employment of a non-Muslim individual that would handle the meat products rather than banning them outright. Sadly, this whole story seems to be about a franchisee and a corporation both digging in their heels rather than looking for a constructive solution.

Listen, Dunkin’ Donuts clearly seems to be within its legal rights. But I wonder if it is missing an opportunity here, since Muslims do happen to be the fastest growing ethnic group in the US.

Regarding Nash Finch’s decision to move away from its controversial “cost plus 10 percent” pricing policy in its Avanza stores in Denver, one MNB user wrote:

I live in Denver and this +10% program at Avanza is embarrassing to the grocery community at large. You’re asking the consumer to project what the final cost will be of their groceries instead of giving them the final price. The person(s) who created this program (or approved it) are incredibly unsophisticated grocery marketers.

It was reported last week that on Long Island, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy has signed legislation banning the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in empty beverage containers for children under the age of three. The measure, which actually contradicts the federal government’s position that BPA is safe, carries a $500 fine.

BPA has been the subject of some controversy, with people lining up both for and against it. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved its use, a position supported by a wide range of trade organizations. However, Consumers Union (CU), the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Walmart all disagree with the FDA decision; in Walmart’s case, it is not selling children’s products containing BPA. In addition, an independent panel of scientific advisors has told the FDA that its reasoning was flawed when it issued a provisional ruling that BPA is safe.

I commented last week that “this ends up looking, by the way, like the FDA is on the side of the manufacturers making bottles with BPA, and that Walmart is on the side of the consumer. Which may be great positioning for Walmart, but it doesn’t appear to say much for the judgment of the FDA.”

Leading one MNB user to write:

Come on! Are you really saying that the FDA's judgment should be governed by consumer ignorance rather than objective scientific evidence? Would you really prefer that its "judgment" reflects a popularity contest among the great unwashed?

No, I am saying that there seems to be a lot of room for disagreement here…in addition to which, the FDA isn’t exactly the voice of credibility these days.

KC's View: