SEOUL, Jul. 11 (Korea Bizwire) — Fast food restaurants offering burgers and fries found few takers as stores sat nearly empty over the weekend thanks to a “burger phobia” that is spreading like wildfire.
The heightened wariness towards eating hamburgers is due to the belief that they may contain undercooked or unhealthy ingredients. The phrase “burger phobia” was coined after a young boy reportedly contracted HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome) after eating a McDonald’s hamburger that contained undercooked meat.
HUS is a disease that can result in kidney failure and is often caused by an infection of E.coli bacteria. One of the common ways that E.coli bacteria enter the human body is through the consumption of contaminated water and food.
As the central figure in the ensuing controversy, McDonald’s has seen a big hit to its bottom line.
On Sunday evening, the McDonald’s by Seoul’s city hall, which would normally have been bursting with hungry customers, was quietly devoid of activity. Only a handful of diners filled no more than a quarter of the total seats available.
In response to requests for sales figures, McDonald’s Korea stated that it is against company policy to publicly disclose such information. It only added that it will cooperate with the legal authorities on all matters surrounding the breakout of “burger phobia”.
Speaking about the fears over hamburgers and their impact, a McDonald’s employee said, “Our customer numbers are less than half of what they usually are. What’s striking is that there were almost no mothers with children at all.”
Although burger chains such as Lotteria and Burger King have thus far been unaffected by the downturn, industry insiders predict that their stores will not be completely immune to the overall decline in demand for hamburgers.
Some think the fear of infection by burgers is overblown. One office worker near the McDonald’s at Seoul city hall pointed out that merely getting swept up by the latest craze without any evidence of whether the allegations are true or false is absurd. He added that he had been eating hamburgers for a long time and that he would continue to do so without hesitation.