McDonald’s Advances Public Relations, Not Public Health

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson

April 15, 2004

The McDonald’s announcement advances public relations more than it does public health. The company’s small steps seem more designed to forestall the big steps that government should be taking to prevent obesity and heart disease.

Government should be pushing big-step solutions like requiring nutrition information on menus and menu boards, getting junk-food ads off kids’ television, and getting junk food out of schools. Government—-Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson in particular—-should be pushing these big steps instead of playing pattycake with one of the world’s biggest junk-food producers.

Consumers have good reason to be skeptical about the company’s latest promises, since the company broke its promise to reformulate its trans-fat-laden cooking oil. By frying in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, McDonald’s recklessly promotes heart disease among its consumers. It could prolong the lives of its customers by simply switching to liquid vegetable oil. It should also use lower-fat meat, lower-fat cheese, lower the salt content in many of its products, and continue to expand the number of healthful items on its menu.

I’m glad that McDonald’s says it will promote its salads, and hand out step meters, and so on. Those are all good things. But if McDonald’s were sincere about promoting healthy eating, it would put calorie counts right on menu boards.


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