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Australia: No Anthrax at McDonald's - 2002-01-16

Tests on white powder sent to McDonald's restaurants in Australia found no trace of the deadly anthrax virus. More than 30 suspicious envelopes were sent to the chain's restaurants in Sydney.

The suspect letters were sent to store managers across Sydney, sparking a nationwide alert among the company's 710 fast-food outlets. Australian police investigating the country's biggest and most organized anthrax scare say most of the envelopes have been examined and no trace of any dangerous substances - including anthrax - had been found.

Two of the restaurants were closed for a short time during the powder scare Tuesday.

Australian authorities have had to deal with hundreds of hoaxes made against companies, embassies and government departments since the United States went through an anthrax scare a few months ago. Several people died in the United States after being infected with the disease from letters carrying powdered anthrax spores. The powder used in the contaminated mail was white.

Detectives in Australia said Wednesday they think the letters were sent to scare McDonald's customers and staff and to disrupt business. No extortion demand has been made against the American company. Police warn that any one using the post to make chemical threats faces up to 10 years' jail.

As the results of the forensic tests were being made public, postal workers at a mail delivery center in Sydney said another suspicious envelope addressed to McDonald's has been discovered.

It is business as usual for McDonald's across Australia today but the burger chain has warned its store managers not open any mail until further notice as the hunt for the source of the letters continues.