Many New Yorker’s are already accustomed to the mandatory calorie information they see posted at McDonald’s restaurants throughout the city, now the chain is posting this information at all of its locations nationwide. Starting Monday the chain will post calorie information on restaurant and drive-thru menus, working to voluntarily post this information before a regulation is passed that would mandate restaurants to post this information nationwide.
McDonald’s already posts calories information in New York, Philadelphia, Australia, South Korea and the United Kingdom. They hope to soon post this information in South America as well. “We want to voluntarily do this,” said Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s USA. “We believe it will help educate customers. When it’s all said and done, the menu mix doesn’t change. But I do think people feel better knowing this information.”
This move comes as a preemptive response to the Supreme Court’s decision to approve President Obama’s healthcare changes. In these changes one regulation requires that restaurant chains with over 20 locations must post the calorie content of their food. While restaurants still have time to sort out their menus before the law comes into play, few other chains have responded so readily. Wendy’s has yet to make a response, Burger King and Yum Brands (the owner of KFC and Taco Bell) said that they are waiting for more information before they proceed.
The ultimate goal of posting calorie information at these restaurants is to raise awareness about what we eat. “Obesity isn’t the kind of thing where one day you wake up and you’re fat. We gradually and slowly gain weight over time,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Wootan believes that this move could have a large effect over time, and could help sway some people to make better choices with what they eat.
Regulators are also hoping that restaurant chains will make an extra effort to provide healthier food after seeing the calorie content publicly posted. “It can be embarrassing, or shocking, so they end up changing the way the product is made,” Wootan said.
McDonald’s is already testing some healthier options, like the Egg White Delight, an Egg McMuffin with egg white, Canadian bacon and white cheddar cheese on a whole grain muffin, clocking in at 260 calories. New McWraps are being tested as well, ranging from 350 to 580 calories. This is a stark contrast to a Big Mac meal, which would amount to about 1,140 calories. McDonald’s faces strong competition from chains like Subway that market themselves as healthy alternatives to fast food.
McDonald’s efforts to get ahead of the game by posting calorie content voluntarily may simply be a savvy public relations move however. Corporate Accountability International is a group that has previously urged McDonald’s to stop marketing food to children. They say that McDonald’s has attempted to stop similar regulations in the past, and their latest move was certainly not voluntary. While the chain instituted a rule earlier this year that automatically includes apple slices in Happy Meals, Sara Deon from Corporate Accountability International said that it was nothing but a “PR scheme designed to drive traffic to stores to sell burgers and fries.”
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