Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by McDonald's Restaurants Limited (OB 52)


  1.1  McDonald's Restaurants Limited welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the House of Commons Health Select Committee's Inquiry into Obesity. We are proud of the food that we serve at our restaurants and we aim to be the UK's best quick service restaurant experience. We are committed to serving hot, fresh, great tasting, good value food to all our customers every time they visit one of our restaurants.

  1.2  McDonald's takes the issue of a healthy, balanced lifestyle extremely seriously. As part of our commitment to the highest possible standards of responsible behaviour, we continually strive to improve our food and drink for the enjoyment and welfare of our customers.

  1.3  We believe we can contribute to public health in three important ways:

    —  Improving menu choice to meet our customers changing tastes;

    —  Providing improved customer information;

    —  Advocating and promoting healthy lifestyles.

  1.4  In the pages that follow, we provide further details about what we have done in each of these three important areas and what we currently have planned.


  2.1  McDonald's opened its first restaurant in the UK in October 1974. By the end of 2002, there were 1,231 McDonald's restaurants in the UK, representing a total investment in property and equipment of over £1.6 billion. The Company employed just under 48,000 people and over 25,000 more were employed by McDonald's franchisees. Last year, we generated sales in excess of £1.6 billion, and we serve food and drinks to around three million people in the UK every day.


  3.1  Health experts, including the World Health Organisation, emphasise that obesity is a very complex issue fuelled by many factors, not just food consumption. Other major factors identified include:

    —  today's increasingly sedentary lifestyles;

    —  increased use of computers, television and video games;

    —  decreased physical education programmes and recess time in schools.

  3.2  What people eat is, however, of central importance to the obesity debate, and it is important to assess an individual's whole diet and lifestyle in considering the part any particular food can play within a healthy, balanced diet.

  3.3  McDonald's food consists of high quality ingredients that can make up a part of a well-balanced, varied diet. Our menu is made up of beef, pork, poultry, fish, bread, vegetables and dairy products, all of which are produced to the highest standards of quality and safety. People trust the food we serve to be safe and of high quality.

  3.4  McDonald's takes its responsibilities towards its customers very seriously. It is our aim to provide the variety and choice that allow our customers to make an important and informed choice about individual meals in relation to their whole diet. At the end of the day, it is up to individuals to decide what they and their families will eat.


  4.1  The McDonald's menu offers a choice of food and drink made from basic ingredients including red and white meat, fish, eggs, milk, grain and vegetables, all of which are produced to the highest standards of quality and safety. That choice includes mineral water, promotional salads, non-meat meals, fruit, diet drinks, semi-skimmed milk and fruit juice.

  4.2  We are constantly looking at ways to improve the nutritional value of our food and drink, provided that taste is not compromised. Just 15 years ago, we did not have the choice of chicken, fish, mineral water, non-meat meals, diet drinks, semi-skimmed milk, organic milk and fruit that we have now.

  4.3  In recent years, we have made a number of changes to our menu for nutritional reasons:

    —  Lard has been replaced in buns with a smaller quantity of vegetable oil.

    —  Mineral water, pure orange juice, diet coke and cartons of organic semi-skimmed milk, are available in all restaurants.

    —  A low calorie sweetener is available as an alternative to sugar.

    —  The formulation of sauces has been improved to reduce oil levels. Cooking oil has been changed to reduce the saturated and trans-fatty acid content.

    —  Free range eggs are used in all our breakfast offers.

  4.4  This has continued with further innovations this year including:

    —  Replacing all our cartons of non-organic semi-skimmed milk with organic semi-skimmed milk.

    —  In April 2003, we introduced fruit bags as a Happy Meal option. The 80g Happy Meal Fruit Bag is equivalent to one of the Department of Health's five-a-day recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables. The fresh fruit can be substituted for fries in a Happy Meal or bought separately for 59p per portion. The initiative has been backed by a significant marketing campaign including prime-time television advertising.

    —  The other new choices within the Happy Meals range are Robinson's Fruit Shoot (a high juice, no added sugar drink) and Chicken Selects that are made from chicken breast meat.

    —  Also from April 2003 we rolled out our New Tastes Menu which includes the Pasta and Chicken Salad that contains only 266 calories and less than 5% fat. Although the New Tastes Menu will change from time to time, it is intended always to include a food offering with less than 5% fat.

  4.5  These changes stem from the dialogue we have with our customers and ensure that McDonald's continues to provide them with what they want—more choice and variety to suit evolving tastes and preferences.


  5.1  Nutritional issues are increasingly important to people, largely because the link between a balanced diet and good health has never been more strongly understood.

  5.2  In 1984, we were the first UK quick service restaurant company to publish nutritional information about our food and drink, believing that customers wanted to make informed choices about individual meals in relation to their whole diet. The McDonald's UK website ( features this nutritional information as well as an interactive menu planner. Nutritional leaflets are also available in all our stores.

  5.3  We will of course continue to look at ways to improve the way we communicate such information to our customers, both in terms of the information they require and the form in which it is presented.


  6.1  McDonald's fully endorses a healthy, balanced lifestyle for customers. The essence of a healthy lifestyle is a good diet based upon balance, variety, moderation and physical activity. As part of our commitment to the highest possible standards of responsible behaviour, we continually strive to improve our food and drink for the enjoyment and welfare of our customers.

  6.2   At a global level, we recently announced the creation of the McDonald's Advisory Council on Healthy Lifestyles comprised of independent, recognized experts in relevant fields from around the world. These 10 experts will cover a wide range of disciplines including nutrition, fitness, lifestyle and children's well being.

  6.3  Along the same lines as our Animal Welfare Council and International Scientific Advisory Council on beef safety, the Council will provide input and recommendations for how best to implement our Healthy Lifestyles initiatives at a country level. These initiatives will look to educate children and families on issues of health and well-being, ranging from physical fitness and activity to nutrition and personal safety.


  7.1  McDonald's understands that the essence of a healthy, balanced lifestyle is based not only on a balanced diet, but also on regular physical activity.

  7.2  Our championing of physical activity goes far beyond branding opportunities. We are committed to a long-term programme to advocate and support the development of healthier lifestyles:

    —  Since 1995, the Company has invested more than £10 million in community football.

    —  McDonald's has partnerships with more than 30 professional football clubs in England and Scotland. These partnerships include grassroots and community initiatives.

    —  Through our restaurants we also have more than 500 local partnerships with school and youth teams and sponsored junior leagues.

    —  Last year, we appointed Sir Geoff Hurst MBE and Manchester United coach Eric Harrison to head up our grass roots football programme.

  7.3  We are increasing our support of physical activity initiatives, especially involving young people, through our new football community partnerships with each of the four national football associations. These are major programmes designed to encourage participation in grass roots football and skill development. By 2006, an additional 10,000 people will have been trained and received a coaching qualification from their national football association. They, in turn, will be able to motivate and train people in schools and clubs across the country. This is intended to represent an additional 1.3 million hours of coaching to more than 250,000 people over four years.


  8.1  McDonald's believes that the issue of obesity can only be addressed through effective partnerships. This approach is at the heart of McDonald's activity around the world on advocating and promoting healthy lifestyles.

  8.2  We are contributing to the current World Health Organisation consultation for the preparation of the WHO guidance paper on "Diet, Nutrition and prevention of Chronic Diseases".

  8.3  McDonald's in Europe is establishing an industry-leading Agricultural Assurance Programme implementing the highest standards of quality safety and traceability throughout the food supply chain from farm to customer.

  8.4  In the UK, McDonald's has a desire to develop our relationship with regulators like the Food Standards Agency on nutritional matters and is in dialogue with the Food Tsar and other Food Champions appointed by the Scottish Executive.

  8.5  We are also building relationships with relevant Government departments and officials to ensure that we establish lines of communication on nutritional and physical activity issues and to ensure that there is an awareness of McDonald's developments in this area.


  9.1  McDonald's is always looking for further opportunities to improve our menu offering, customer information and promotion of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

  9.2  McDonald's is talking to decision makers to ensure that we play an appropriate role in the healthy lifestyle programmes proposed.

  9.3  McDonald's helps to provide access to high-quality football coaching and encourages young people to participate in physical activity.

  9.4  McDonald's can play a valuable role in the awareness and understanding of the importance of a healthy, balanced lifestyle amongst our customers through continued improvement of menu choice to meet customers changing tastes, the provision of improved nutritional information and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

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