By Diane Toops, News & Trends Editor
McDonald’s, which serves 50 million people globally every day, and other fast-food restaurant chains, have been raked over the grill over the past year for causing the obesity epidemic, particularly among children.
Rather than promoting personal responsibility for maintaining a svelte figure, books such as "Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser and films like "Super Size Me" by Morgan Spurlock viciously attack fast-food providers. It’s absurd; why not go after the auto industry because consumers don’t get enough exercise?
Criticism of McDonald’s is an attack on the entire food industry. After all, the chain is one of your largest customers, if you are fortunate enough to supply them. “At McDonald’s, we do not make anything,” explains Jose Carlos (J.C.) Gonzalez-Mendez, vice president of U.S. supply chain management. “Everything we serve is purchased from global suppliers — the front-line guardians of quality.”
But one rule you have to live by is not applied to them. Unlike manufacturers of packaged food, restaurants are not required to publish any information about their products' ingredients or nutritional components. There is no fast-food Nutrition Facts statement on every product, giving consumers all the facts they need to make a wise decision.
|In self-defense against critics of its food's nutritional value, McDonald's will soon begin wearing its nutrients on its sleeve, so to speak.
McDonald’s has gone that extra mile. As part of a global commitment to promote balanced, active lifestyles, McDonald’s Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., is leading an initiative, the first for a quick-service restaurant chain, to put nutrition information on all of its individual products and into the hands of consumers — literally.
Nutrition information long has been available on McDonald’s web site. But beginning in the first half of this year in restaurants in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America, all a consumer has to do is look at the package or wrapping on his or her Big Mac, french fries, salad or Apple Dippers to see the fat, calories, etc., in that meal.
How can this nutrition information initiative work around the globe? Guided by input from experts around the world and McDonald’s Global Advisory Council on Balanced, Active Lifestyles — a group of independent advisors in the areas of nutrition, public health and fitness — McDonald’s developed icons representing the five elements most relevant to consumer understanding of nutrition: calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates and sodium. The bar chart lists the calories, based on a 2,000-calorie a day diet, with a diagonal line that represents one-third of the average daily allowance, helping customers to plan three balanced meals per day. The combination makes it easy for consumers to understand what the food contains instantly no matter what language one speaks.
“This initiative makes it easier than ever to understand the quality that goes into our food,” explains CEO Jim Skinner. “We’re very confident that the more information people have, the more they will like what they see at McDonald’s.”
One of the reasons McDonald’s continues to be America’s favorite quick-serve meal solution is its dedication to consistent quality, safety, value pricing and good taste. And contrary to the opinion of some critics, good nutrition is key to its modus operandi.
It is making every effort to provide “healthier” foods — including the removal of trans fats.
But let’s put things into perspective. Convenience and great taste is what consumers want. If Americans wanted carrot sticks (which is on the menu in Sweden), they’d be on the menu here. Let’s look at two of the most popular McDonald’s products not touted for their “healthier” attributes — the Big Mac, containing 560 calories, 30g of fat and 1,010mg of sodium. Compare that to a tuna salad sandwich on a medium croissant, which contains 610 calories, 31 g of fat and 1,250 mg of salt.
How about an Egg McMuffin: 290 calories, 11g of fat and 850mg sodium. It compares pretty favorably to a 16-oz. nonfat café mocha with whipping cream, which contains 350 calories, 11 g of fat and 250 mg sodium.
As far as I’m concerned, McDonald’s has gotten a bad rap. At a recent McDonald’s Quality Symposium, I learned McDonald’s philosophy is, “Everything begins and ends with quality.” From food design through production, processing and distribution, McDonald’s partners with suppliers to improve best practices, animal welfare, environmental responsibility and performance measures. It explores technological innovations to enhance food safety from farm to counter, with quality and safety standards and regular checks in critical areas along the way. It has established standards for each food item, deals only with suppliers that can consistently meet them and provides product specifications for ingredient quality and processing.
Food processors, brands and supplier partners to McDonald’s are a who’s who of industry leaders including: ACH, Bama, BPI Technology Inc., Bridor Inc., Cargill Meat Solutions, Century Products LLC, Con-Agra, Coca-Cola Co., Cryovac, Cumberland Foods, Danone, Dasani, Dean Foods, East Balt Bakery Inc., Fair Oaks Farms, Formax Inc., Golden State Foods, Gorton’s, C.H. Guenther & Son Inc., IMI Cornelius, Interstate Foods, Keystone Foods, Kraft Foods, Lamb Weston, Lopez Foods, Magliner, McCain, McCormick, R.C. McInEntire & Co., Mepaco, Missa Bay LLC, MP Equipment Co., Mullins Food Products, National Dairy Holdings, Nestlé, Newman’s Own, North Side Foods, OSI Industries LLC, Rose Packing Co., R&D Ranch, Sara Lee Foods., Sealed Air, Seal-It Inc., J.R. Simplot, Smithfield Foods, Smurfit-Stone, Smyth Companies Inc., Stewart Systems Inc., Stoffel Seals Corp., Tyson and Weiler and Co. And probably more.
Consumers can be certain McDonald’s food not only tastes good, it’s the freshest and best quality available. So put away your car keys (before the auto industry litigation begins) and walk on over with your family to spend quality time enjoying a tasty meal provided by quality suppliers who care about good nutrition and taste.