Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by McDonald's Restaurants Limited


  1.1  McDonald's Restaurants Limited welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee's Inquiry into Food Information. We are proud of the food that we serve in our restaurants and we aim to deliver the UK's best quick service restaurant experience. We are committed to serving hot, fresh, great tasting, good value food to all our customers and providing them with the information they need to make an informed choice from our menu.

  1.2  We are conscious that eating habits and lifestyles are changing, and that food choice and nutritional issues are of increasing importance to our customers. We believe that we have an important role to play in informing the two and a half million customers whom we serve every day in a number of key areas:

    —  The nutritional content of our food and drinks.

    —  Balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

    —  Food safety.

    —  Food origin and means of production (including ethical considerations).

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


  2.1  McDonald's opened its first restaurant in the UK in October 1974. We now have 1,235 restaurants in the UK, representing a total investment in property and equipment of over £1.6 billion. The Company employs over 45,000 people, with over 25,000 more employed by McDonald's franchisees. We serve food and drinks to around two and a half million customers in the UK every day.


  3.1  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.

  3.2  We are constantly looking at ways to improve the nutritional value of our food and drink, whilst maintaining the great taste that our customers enjoy. Our menu evolves over time, reflecting the changing tastes of our customers. Fifteen years ago, we did not have the choice of main meal and side salads, grilled chicken, fish, mineral water, non-meat meals, diet drinks, semi-skimmed organic milk, yoghurt and fruit that we now offer.

  3.3  In recent years, we have made a number of nutritional changes to our menu in response to customers' changing needs, including the following:

    —  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.

  3.4  This has continued with further innovations over the past 12 months including:

    —  Introducing our new "Salads Plus" range, which will ensure that convenient and affordable main meal and side salads (including a choice of two warm grilled chicken salads) will be available to more British people than ever before. The range also includes a new grilled chicken sandwich, Quorn sandwich, fruit and yoghurt dessert and apples.

    —  Introducing organic semi-skimmed milk that can be included as a part of a Happy Meal.

    —  Introducing fruit bags in April 2003. 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 and can be eaten as a dessert or swapped for French Fries in our Happy Meal. Since their introduction we have become the largest single retailer of pre-prepared fresh fruit in the UK and have delivered more than 10 million portions of fruit to British customers.

    —  Introducing other new choices within the Happy Meals range such as Robinson's Fruit Shoot (a high juice, no added sugar drink).

  3.5  These changes stem from the on-going dialogue we have with our customers and ensure that McDonald's continues to provide them with what they want—more choice and variety.


  4.1  McDonald's supports the principle of providing clear information to customers about our food and drinks. We believe that many customers want to make informed individual choices about the food and drinks that they consume in the context of their whole diet and exercise regime.

  4.2  The labels on all of our pre-packaged foods of course contain nutritional information. However, our efforts in relation to most menu items have been concentrated on providing information to customers before they make their purchase. Unlike supermarkets, for example, where food items can be picked up and labels read before purchase, in the case of restaurants serving hot, fresh food, at times made to individual preferences, labels will not be seen until after the food has been served.

  4.3  In 1984, we were the first UK quick service restaurant company to provide customers with nutritional guidance and ingredient information on all our food and drink. The current version of this "Our Food" leaflet, which is available in our restaurants. As well as nutritional information, the leaflet contains full country of origin information wherever possible, and full allergen information, in addition to our policies on key food issues such as Genetic Modification.

  4.4  This nutritional information is also available on the McDonald's UK website (, alongside an interactive menu planner, via our Customer Services Helpline and on the back of our trayliners for customers to take away with them if they wish.

  4.5  Also available in our restaurants is our "five-a-day" leaflet, written by nutritionist Anita Bean BSc, R.Nutr, which provides parents with easy-to-use guidance in the form of facts and tips on ensuring that children eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

  4.6  We are also in the process of introducing nutritional training for our staff. We want to make sure that our employees have all the information they need to make the right choices for their lifestyle. Our ongoing Eat Smart, Be Active campaign, aimed at customers and staff, gives guidance on healthy eating, nutrition and physical exercise and will be incorporated into our employee training programmes over the coming months (see

  4.7  We also understand the desire for, so far as practicable, a consistency of labelling applied across the European Union, and McDonald's, as a representative of the European Modern Restaurants Association (known as "EMRA"), is an active participant in the food labelling issue, working as part of the EU Food Labelling Steering Committee. The Committee, made up of representatives from consumer organisations, industry and euro-commerce, acts as an advisory group to the Commission, looking at new approaches to food labelling.

  4.8  We recognise the growing desire for more information on the food we eat and we will continue to look for new and innovative ways to communicate information to our customers so as to improve its scope, clarity and accessibility. We are currently testing a number of different approaches in different markets across the world, and will closely monitor the response of our customers. For example, our colleagues in the United States are testing the provision of nutritional information on Happy Meals in parent-approved and child-friendly ways, with the objective of helping families make informed choices and learn ways to achieve a good food/energy balance.


  5.1  Food safety is of the utmost importance to McDonald's. We serve two and a half million customers in the UK every day and they trust and expect us to serve safe food. We pride ourselves on core values such as quality, service and cleanliness and have developed leading hygiene and food safety systems over many years.

  5.2  Our commitment to food safety encompasses the entire supply chain from raw material production through to our restaurants. As customers in our own right we demand high standards of our suppliers. Our food and drinks are made to exacting specifications and we work closely with our suppliers to ensure that both the highest food quality and food safety procedures are in place throughout the sourcing and production process (please see further comments in paragraphs 6 & 7 below).

  5.3  At restaurant level, our comprehensive Crew Development Programme (CDP) trains our staff in food handling and hygiene procedures. Observation checklists and regular audits are used to ensure that correct procedures are followed and to verify the effectiveness of the hygiene and safety training. Many of our standards with regards to food safety exceed or significantly exceed legal requirements.

  5.4  The Company has a Hygiene and Safety Department under the leadership of a Department Head with many years experience in this area. We also utilise the services of leading external consultants when required.

  5.5  Lack of consumer understanding of the supply chain can result in uninformed and specious criticism of the food industry as well as confusion in the minds of the consumer over food issues. It is therefore important that we inform our customers about the safety and quality of our food in an accessible and effective manner. We believe that such communications not only promote our own standards, they also reinforce the general importance of matters such as hygiene in food preparation.

  5.6  In the autumn of 2003, we ran a programme called "Open Doors", which allowed members of the public to have a behind the scenes tour of McDonald's restaurants. One hundred and twenty restaurants opened their doors to the public to tell them more about our food, our people and to show them how their meals are prepared within our restaurants. We will be undertaking a larger "Open Doors" programme this year, to coincide with National Food Safety Week between the 14 and 20 June, and will include visits to suppliers as part of the programme.

  5.7  We also ran an advertisement in the first part of 2004, featuring Chris Eubank, and focussing on the hygiene and safety procedures that exist within our restaurants. Most McDonald's advertising is about our food, but we know that the public is also interested in clean restaurants and safe food. We plan to run similar advertisements later in the year.


  6.1  Consumers expect the food chain to provide diversity, choice and quality products at a reasonable price. McDonald's serves as a conduit for the views of consumers at the retail end of the food chain through regular consumer research and focus groups. Those views are then channelled back so that they are taken into consideration and addressed further up the chain. Ours is, we believe, an enlightened, consumer-led approach to the management of the supply chain.

  6.2  The demands we place on our supply chain are considerable. Our expectations are that the supply chain should deliver quality, safe products that meet our standards, that these are delivered reliably, efficiently and competitively priced, and in the quantities that our customers require. The need for traceability and product integrity has brought about a much closer relationship between suppliers throughout the supply chain, particularly producers.

  6.3  In 2002, we launched the McDonald's Agricultural Assurance Programme (know as "MAAP"), a pan European programme that defines the standards we expect of suppliers operating throughout our supply chain, that demands high standards and best practice from farms and suppliers. Our seven general policies determine the present and future development of our primary supply chain with regards to:

    —  environment;

    —  agricultural practices;

    —  animal welfare;

    —  animal nutrition;

    —  animal medication;

    —  traceability; and

    —  genetics.

  6.4  For each product, a number of standards define details for production throughout the food chain, from pre-planting via cultivation methods, to harvest for arable crops, and from feed mill and breeder animals, via husbandry including all transport for food animals. These standards often exceed or significantly legal requirements.

  6.5  In our submission to the Curry Commission in November 2001, we pointed out that one of the difficulties which besets the food industry, at all levels of the supply chain, is a lack of consumer understanding of how food makes the journey from farm to fork, and the quality of much of the food that they consume on a daily basis.

  6.6  For this reason (and the reasons stated in paragraph 5.5 above), through a number of campaigns McDonald's has sought to inform consumers of the quality of the ingredients used in our food and drinks, and to re-connect them with the supply chain. Our quality campaign, which has been running since 2003 across various forms of media, has focused on our main ingredients, including beef, eggs, potatoes and chicken.

 6.7  In addition, our organic milk and and free-range egg campaigns, which also ran throughout 2003, have focused upon the means of production and in April 2003 we won the Good Egg Award for our use of free-range eggs. Our switch to organic semi-skimmed milk, and re-design of the packaging, have seen our milk sales increase by 26% reflecting the general public's growing interest in organic produce.


  7.1  An ethical and sustainable supply chain is of utmost importance to McDonald's. A great deal of work is already being undertaken by the industry with a view to identifying alternative, sustainable and commercially viable farming methods. Part of our approach in this area is through MAAP since the enforcement of high standards and best practice from the farm to the point of final sale by large players in the food industry, such as McDonald's, is key to the maintenance of an ethical and sustainable supply chain.

  7.2  Each of our direct suppliers, wherever they are located, is required to comply with McDonald's strict code of conduct for suppliers that covers matters such as employment practices. Deviations from this code are not permitted.

  7.3  We use our "Our Food" leaflet to inform customers about some of our sourcing policies, including those on animal welfare and Genetically Modified produce, and we are currently working with our suppliers on a supply chain charter.

  7.4  We are founder partners of the Food Animal Initiative, a project founded to bring together top quality scientists with farmers and the food industry to find solutions to the issues and matters of social concern now facing the farming industry. It aims to develop and promote practical and sustainable agricultural practices, which will be good for animal welfare, the environment and the public.

  7.5  FAI operates on several sites across the United Kingdom, but primarily from a farm close to Oxford. FAI holds a number of open days and courses for the general public, looking at how everyday foods are produced and incorporating a tour of the working farm. In addition, there is an education service running introductory courses on agriculture for children and providing teachers that explain production systems and the issues relating to the supply chain.


  8.1  With food and nutrition issues taking on a greater importance than ever before, it is important that the consumer is able to make informed choices on all elements of their diet and that they understand how these choices fit within the context of their own lifestyle.

  8.2  McDonald's has for many years provided clear and relevant information about its food and drinks to customers and is committed to seeking ways of improving the scope, clarity and accessibility of this information.

  8.3  McDonald's, with its considerable customer base, can, and seeks to, play an important role in reconnecting the consumer with all aspects of the supply chain and in educating the consumer on issues related to food production and food preparation.

  8.4  Programmes such as Open Doors and the Food Animal Initiative have provided customers with first-hand insights into our food practices and we have an ongoing programme of communication through literature available in our restaurants, advertising and promotions to ensure they are kept informed.

  8.5  We are committed to working with Government to promote better understanding of food issues amongst our customers and the wider public.

19 April 2004

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