Debates about the food chain McDonald’s often involve a lot of hypocricy. Many of its biggest critics are also, surprisingly, its customers. However, the corporation does itself no favours by engaging in Orwellian double speak that defies the facts about its products.
One loyal and one, not so loyal, customer
There were 2 interesting events last week that concerned the world’s biggest food chain, McDonald’s. In Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, USA, its most loyal customer, Don Gorske, ate his 25 000th Big Mac. A slim 57-year-old with reportedly low cholesterol, he has been eating these for just short of 4 decades. He says that he plans to eat there for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, Corporate Accountability International proved to less favourite advocate of the company. They took out adverts in many US newspapers calling for the retirement of Ronald McDonald, the clown used to promote its products to children.
The statistics concerning the calorie contents of its meals are well documented. The ‘classic meal’ which includes a Big Mac (540 calories) with large fries (500 calories) and a large coke (310 calories) to wash it all down weighs in at a staggering 1350 calories. This is nearly the total number of calories that a woman should consume in one day and 60% of a male’s calorie requirements. And this information doesn’t take into account the huge amounts of salt and sugar that are found in their products.
Attacks on McDonald’s are nothing new and there is a certain amount of hypocrisy all round. This is particularly true in France where you find critics everywhere despite the fact that the country has been one of the chain’s best growth markets for years. Indeed, in dwelling on the gory details of the contents of the food served up by McDonald’s its critics, who are very often its customers as well often omit that a Big Mac and fries (or whatever your favourite variant happens to be), is actually quite delicious. Eating there can be quick, simple and fun (particularly when you have young kids to entertain. Is it good for you? Of course it isn’t, everyone knows that, but it can be enjoyable AND harmless if done on an occasional basis.
“A balanced, active lifestyle ambassador”!
However, the McDonald’s Corporation is no stranger to hypocrisy itself. Faced with attacks on its clown, it is now describing the 48-year-old Ronald as a “force for good” and a “balanced, active lifestyles ambassador”. A what?! George Orwell’s government in the book “1984” would have been proud of that one. Such statements clearly fly in the face of everything we know about the food chain. A standard 1350 calorie meal filled with salt and sugar can be an enjoyable experience or a fun treat if done from time to time, but it is not balanced diet anywhere in the world.
McDonald’s has always pointed out that you are welcome to choose the “healthier” options such as salads. To some extent they have a point, but isn’t like going out to a nightclub for a nice, quiet read? And it’s not as if customers are encouraged to replace the fries with a salad in a standard meal (a more expensive option for the corporation).
Francois Rabelais, no stranger to gluttonous feasts, claimed that ”knowledge without conscience is but the ruin of the soul.” McDonald’s would do well to read this advice. They should accept their strategic positioning rather than treating their customers as idiots and trying to convince them that black is white. A meal at McDonald’s can be fun, but it is NOT good for your diet if done on a regular basis. The corporation would do a lot for its reputation by acknowledging this plain fact.
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International Affairs in Higher Education