McD's Shareholders Nix Obesity Study; Moderation Rules

In his run-up to the McDonald’s annual meeting, which was held in Oak Brook, Ill., yesterday, USA Today’s Bruce Horovitz pointed out that there is still a big “to-do” list for incoming CEO Don Thompson, 48, who on July 1 takes over from Jim Skinner, 67, who guided McDonald's “through one of its most successful, yet change-embracing, periods.”

Among them are growing the dinner business, taking on fast-food casual, expanding beverage offerings, improving “nutritionals” and no less than “charting a new course” after Skinner successfully “steadied the boat.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Tiffany Hsu reports post-meeting that among other things, the company is testing decaf and skim milk options for the McCafe beverage line, looking at adding more grains and fruits to the menu, and searching for more entrees for the Happy Meal beyond the recently added apple slices, smaller fries and fat-free milk.



According to Thompson, the chain has updated 45% of its nearly 34,000 interiors and should hit 50% of exteriors within the next few years, the Chicago Tribune’s Emily Bryson York reports

"Modernization goes beyond just re-imaging," Thompson said. "It also includes the many other ways that customers interact with our brand," he said, pointing to mobile ordering in Australia, delivery in Asia and self-order kiosks in Europe.

And Ronald McDonald, you ask? "Ronald McDonald isn't going anywhere," Skinner reiterated. 

A proposal that McDonald’s “assess its impact on public health, particularly childhood obesity” garnered a scant 6.4% of the vote but got Ad Age’s lede and headline. It was also at the top of several other reports, including Reuters

A consumer watchdog group, Corporate Accountability International, made the proposal to assess “the spiraling costs of its business practices on our children's health and on our health-care system" within six months of the meeting “at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information,” Maureen Morrison reports in Age

“Outgoing CEO Jim Skinner said during the meeting that McDonald's advertises responsibly to kids and families,” Morrison writes. “He said the company is proud of its food and the nutritional changes it's made to the menu, and that McDonald's, which serves 68 million people a day globally, has done more than anyone else in the fast food industry to improve nutrition and offer healthier food options.”

Thompson was more emotional in his response, as quoted by Hsu. 

“I love my children dearly,” he said. “I would never do anything to hurt them or any other children, nor would we as a corporation. Please do me the honor of not associating us with doing something that is damaging to children. We have been very responsible.... Please understand the good that we’ve done.”

The observation of one reader, Bill Crandell, to Morrison’s story is “Here's a new healthful-living brand copy platform for McDonald's ... "All Good Things In Moderation" (you're welcome Mickey D, that'll be $250K. Just make the check out to me.)” He closes the comment with a line from “the Robert De Niro/Billy Crystal movie, ‘Analyze This/That,’ where one mafia bodyguard asks another, ‘What's less fattening than a sandwich?’ And his associate says ‘A half a sandwich.’” 

Which reminds of a similar comment I read last night on the Fooducate app about eating dark chocolate. Blithely nibbling on a couple of squares of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao –- we’ve been told dark chocolate is good for us, right? -- I decided to ruin it all by looking up its score on the Fooducate app.

D+ on a scale of A- to D-. Say what? Must be a misprint. A computer glitch. A rounding error, at least. Nah, that’s the way it goes if tastes really, really good, right? It’s never good for you. (Vitamixed collard greens are an exception, of course, but your experience may differ.)

I scrambled around Fooducate looking for a dark chocolate with a better score. The best of them were underperformers — C- students like you’d like find hanging out at the cafeteria tables where the kids who are too-cool-for-school congregate. Take Green & Black’s Dark Chocolate, 85%, for example, which ranks as one of the “The 5 Best Dark Chocolate Bars in the World” on Mark Sisson’s “Daily Apple” health-and-wellness site. A bar contains a whopping 650 calories.

Fooducate wisely points out that the portion sizes on the labels of almost all chocolate packaging don’t match the reality of how most people learned to eat, leading to over-consumption. Growing up, who amongst us ever left behind even a morsel of a Snickers bar? Has it gotten any easier to eat just one salted peanut?

Someone who is eating a full serving of four squares of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie –- a half of a bar –- is not only ingesting 250 calories but also 15 grams of saturated fat, which is about 75% of the recommended daily allowance. So heed we must the words of Suzanne Robin on “If you like dark chocolate, feel free to indulge, because it's good for you -- in small quantities.” 

Which, it turns out, may be as little as a square or two a few times a week -- particularly if excess body fat is an issue. I bring this up because portion control is clearly becoming an increasingly pressing issue for food and restaurant marketing.

So enjoy your Memorial Day weekend; I’ll see you Tuesday. But while I’m handing out cautionary advice, if you choose to forgo a trip to the fastfooder of your choice, be sure to take care at the grill.

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