Happy Anniversary, McDonald's!
Here's Hoping Your Next 50 Years Will Be Better than Your First
Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson
McDonald's has had an enormous impact on our diets, on agriculture, and the economy. To be fair, McDonald's has done better than some of its competitors when it comes to food safety, animal welfare, and the environment. Burger King, for one, should probably be grateful that McDonald's gets the lion's share of scrutiny and criticism in some of those areas, and in terms of nutrition.
But fifty years of McDonald's burgers and fries have coarsened our palates, expanded our waistlines, and clogged our arteries. Thanks to McDonald's one can eat cheaply, though there are much better ways of eating even more inexpensively. But McDonald's deserves a lot of the blame for having transformed the way America eats. We now eat quicker, and in what would have seemed like bizarre or impolite ways many years ago. (In our cars, for instance). What was once an occasional treat or convenience has morphed into a once-, twice-, or thrice-a-day indulgence.
Billions of dollars of advertising make this all seem normal. No one should think that McDonald's genius was in satisfying a demand for meals of burgers, fries, and Cokes. Its genius was creating that demand in the first place.
I'm glad that McDonald's now offers some better salads, and is experimenting with putting some fruit on its menu here and there. But for every new healthy menu item, they seem to add at least one unhealthy menu item, like the McGriddle. McDonald's first fifty years was marked by billions and billions of consumers around the world fed billions of servings of fatty meat, fatty cheese, partially hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, and way too much salt. All in all, this has been a recipe for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other expensive and debilitating diet-related health conditions.
So happy anniversary, McDonald's. Here's hoping that your next fifty years is fifty times healthier than your first.
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).