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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Burger King adopted a corporate policy Friday allowing women to breast-feed their children in restaurants. The new policy came as indignant Utah mothers were trying to organize a "nurse-in" for Saturday at the fast-food giant's restaurants across the country.
The mothers are fed up over harassment they claim they have taken for breast-feeding in public. They were focusing their rage at Burger King after one of its employees allegedly asked a a nursing mother at a suburban Salt Lake City restaurant to either go to the bathroom or leave the restaurant.
Another customer at the Burger King in Sandy on Nov. 8 had complained about the breast-feeding.
A Burger King spokesman said the breast-feeding policy already was in the works and wasn't timed to defuse the Saturday nurse-in plans that were being circulated by an unsigned e-mail to La Leche League members across the country. The league is an international group that promotes breast-feeding.
"We want to be a family-friendly place," said Rob Doughty, vice president for strategic communications for Miami-based Burger King Corp.
"We want to be responsive to our customers, and didn't know this was a big issue. Unfortunately in Utah, it went directly to the press, and we didn't have a chance to take a look at it," he said.
Catherine Geary, the Utah mother who protested Burger King's treatment of her nursing at the Sandy restaurant, reacted positively to the new corporate policy.
"That's excellent," she said Friday. "That's all we asked them for. That's perfect... At least employees will be aware of how to handle a situation more discreetly."
Burger King still could find protesting moms showing up at its restaurants Saturday but hopes they'll be placated by the new policy for franchise operators.
The policy says Burger King welcomes mothers who wish to breast-feed their children at the restaurants and recommends a way to handle other customers who don't like it.
"If a customer complains about a mother who is breast-feeding, kindly explain that breast-feeding is permitted in the restaurant and suggest to that customer that he or she relocate to another section of the restaurant."
Doughty said Burger King lawyers were able to determine that 20 states including Utah expressly allow breast-feeding in public, while laws in other states don't address the issue. An uncertain number of municipalities also permit public breast-feeding.
"We should be able to do that without fear of condemnation -- on airplanes, trains, restaurants, libraries -- anywhere we find ourselves," said Amy Sibul of Salt Lake City, who nurses a 31/2-month-old daughter.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)