We all know McDonald’s peddles food that is not only junky but toxic. But maybe health foods are worse.
Joseph Mercola, in his web site www.mercol.com reported on a nine year old girl named Hannah Robertson who challenged Don Thompson, CEO of McDonald’s Corp., at a recent shareholder meeting,. She told him that if parents had taught their children about healthy eating, the kids might not believe that junk food is good for them because it tastes good. Because she had learned to cook with her mother and has even made how-to cooking videos with her mom, she knew how eating healthy could be delicious and eating healthily could be fun. Eating a “rainbow” of fruits and veggies made kids “healthier, smarter and happier.” She pointed asked Thompson, “don’t you want kids to be healthy so they can live a long and happy life?”
Not surprisingly, Thompson replied to Hanna that McDonald’s didn’t make junk food.
Hanna also expressed the opinion that “big companies try to trick kids into eating food that isn’t good for them by using toys and cartoon characters.” Thompson denied marketing to children. Nevertheless, children aged 2-11 now see an average of more than 10 ads on television a day. 98 percent of food advertisements viewed by children are for products high in fat, sugar and sodium. Children are undeniably the primary market for McDonald’s. and other American businesses. 52 million kids under the age of 12 influence adult spending to the tune of $700 billion a year.
Thompson told the shareholders that “Happy Meals with chicken nuggets are healthy because they have fat-free milk. But the “fat-free milk” is chocolate milk, containing 10 grams of added sugar. Chicken McNuggets contain 30 ingredients besides chicken, including: sodium phosphates, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate and calcium lactate..
“We provide high-quality food,” said Thompson—real beef, chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, fruit, and eggs.
There may be “real eggs” in an Egg McMuffin, but there is also margarine: soybean oil, cottonseed, lecithin, monoglycerides, and diglycerides, with sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as preservatives.
McDonald’s, said Thompson, follows guidelines on responsible marketing to children. McDonald’s was recently fined $1.6 million by the consumer protection agency in Brazil for violating local laws on targeting children. A report from Yale University found that, while McDonald’s pledged to improve its marketing practices, it increased its volume of TV advertising from 2007 to 2009. In 2009, preschoolers saw 21 percent more McDonald’s ads and older children saw 26 percent more compared to 2007.
So McDonald’s is bad, and the solution is to support natural, organic foods, right? Not necessarily.
In his article, “How Junk Food Can End Obesity” in the July/August 2013 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, author David H. Freedman shows that the efforts of popular food producers, including those that service fast-food chains, to create less caloric and healthier foods are being impeded by the wholesome food purveyors, catering to an elite minority and are themselves producing unhealthy food with a high fat content.
Freedman visited several whole-food markets and studied ingredients in foods as vegetarian cheese salad boosters may not contain genetically engineered modified ingredients, they do contain more than three times the fat and four times the sodium in a Big Masc. Peas breaded with cornmeal and rice flower have six times more fat than protein
tofu may be protein rich, but is as fatty as many cuts of beef. Tofu cakes contain a lot of refines carbohydrates. Cornmeal-encrusted eggplant parmesan and flatbread pizzas with spiced lamb beef are not only more expensive than standard fare but are filled with fat and carbohydrates. Dishes served in chic nature-loving restaurants are more reliant on oil, butter, refined grains, rice, potatoes and sugar than eateries without such pretentions.
An example of this is eggs from “cage free “chickens. The chickens are not allowed to roam the range happily, as the name suggests, but are crammed together for all of their short lives in an indoor henhouse, without enough room to move or breathe. (Catonsville Patch).
So McDonald’s foods may be bad, and food from health chains even worse.
Presentation is also a factor. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, the dishes prepared by television chefs, who use phrases like “farm fresh” ingredients as “wellness” produce meals with more calcium and fat per portion than ready-to-eat meals one can buy in the supermarket.
The idea that peoples of old had healthier eating habits is belied by studies of ancient human remains that reveal the presence of hardened arteries and other maladies stemming from their diets at least among the upper classes.
So even if the public could be convinced to switch from fast fat foods to more beneficial ones, there is evidence to suggest they would not be better off.
And while McDonald’s clearly targets children in its advertising, wholesome food manufactures are just as willing to engage in diligent salesmanship of their wares.
The good news is that McDonald’s is actually trying to make changes for the better, including trimming fats, reducing salt, and offering fruits, oatmeal the low-fat dairy products. The organic cartel decries and denigrates such efforts. The better news are the efforts of food engineers to put into practice the research concerning the neuroscience of eating, replacing the ingredients of manufactured food with less toxic alternatives, and creating foods with chewy rather than smooth textures in order to extend the time between bites. Less laudatory are their efforts to alter packaging and counted, such as adding weight to yogurt containers to convince customers that they are purchasing food with higher caloric content than they’re really getting, and using colors, smells and packaging information to make buyers think the foods are sweet and fatty when they’re not .
Still while it may be true that McDonald’s food may be bad, and health food chains worse, there may be industry-wide changes happening that will improve the public’s health while satisfying the stockholders.
Written by: Tom Ukinski