Want fruit with your burger? McDonald's expands anti-obesity push

Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:38pm EDT
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By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) - Hold the fries, pass the salad. McDonald's Corp on Thursday said it would offer healthy options as part of its popular value meals, letting customers choose a side salad, fruit or vegetables instead of french fries.

The announcement by the world's largest fast-food chain comes as more companies respond to government and consumer pressure to address the global obesity epidemic.

McDonald's, which often bears the brunt of criticism over the restaurant industry's penchant for tempting diners with indulgent and often high-calorie food, said it would offer the option in all of its 20 major global markets by 2020.

McDonald's also vowed to promote and market only water, milk and juice as the beverages in its popular Happy Meals for children as part of its announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York on Thursday.

Waist sizes around the world are increasing, setting off alarms in public health circles.

In recent years, the U.S. food industry has begun yielding to pressure from government, parents and consumers seeking to slim down adults and children. Sugary sodas have been yanked from public schools; sugar, sodium and calorie levels have been reduced in products, and calorie counts have been posted on some restaurant menus.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit that has tangled with McDonald's over everything from fattening food to the marketing of Happy Meals, approved of the company's move to add more fruits and vegetables to the menu. Still, it says the company and its rivals have a long way to go in terms of offering healthier options.

"McDonald's slow march toward healthier meals made a major advance today, but a long road lies ahead for the company," CSPI said in a statement.   Continued...

A McDonald's restaurant sign is seen at a McDonald's restaurant in Del Mar, California April 16, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake