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Hundreds of McDonald's Restaurants Across Australia on Terror Alert - 2002-01-15

Hundreds of McDonald's restaurants across Australia are on a terror alert after suspicious envelopes, some containing white powder, were sent to more than 30 stores. The mail, addressed to branch managers, prompted the American-owned chain to temporarily close several affected outlets.

Emergency services crews throughout Sydney rushed to 30 McDonald's outlets after some restaurants received letters containing white powder. Late last year, several people in the United States contracted the potentially deadly disease anthrax from mail carrying powdered anthrax spores.

In the city center, two of the fast-food stores were closed for a short time. A warning to be on the alert was immediately issued to every McDonald's manager across the country.

Guy Russo, a McDonald's executive, says the organization is doing all it can to address the threat. "It goes without saying that we are treating this matter very seriously and I want to reiterate that the safety of our customers and staff is our most important priority. …The most important thing we can do is make sure that we stay calm," Russo said. In Sydney's eastern suburbs, three stores received suspicious-looking envelopes, which turned out to be empty.

Ambulance crews treated some staff members at those three stores as a precaution after at least one employee opened a suspect envelope.

Police say the letters have been taken for forensic examination and the matter is being treated seriously. A spokesman says detectives have no suspects yet.

Hundreds of anthrax hoaxes and scares were recorded in Australia late last year after the incidents in the United States. In Sydney, a British backpacker was fined $500 after sending a letter to a neighbor filled with soap powder as a prank.