August 20, 2004, UK Newspapers McDonald's
Burger and fries giant Mcdonald's is clearly fed up of the film Super Size Me (see: 'Fast way to fat', Down To Earth, June 30, 2004), in which film-maker Morgan Spurlock put on 12 kgs and saw his cholesterol and blood pressure rise after eating nothing but McDonald's hamburgers for a month.
A day before it was to be screened at the Edinburgh film festival, an advertisement appeared in uk national newspapers that read, at first glance, like an attack on the company. "What may surprise you is how much of the film we agree with," the ad says. "If you eat too much and do too little, it's bad for you." Then the argument turns. The ad claims the film is flawed because an average customer would take six years to eat the same amount of burgers as the filmmaker ate. It also claims the weight gain was exaggerated because the filmmaker cut his physical activity to a bare minimum.
The unconventional ad then becomes a conventional one: it says Macdonald's now offers salads, fruit and organic products alongside the Big Mac and fries, thus reminding the uk audience of its drastic policy shift whereby it now offers health foods at all its 1,200 outlets in the country.
Indeed, the company seems desperate to shed its junk food tag. In India, it is launching what it calls a "health awareness campaign" comprising leaflets that highlight the nutritional values of foods it serves. According to Amit Jatia, managing director, Hardcastle Restaurants, the western region arm of McDonald's India, this is "part of McDonald's global corporate social responsibility programme." But could this statement be pure jargon? Is it not that the company is taking the easy way out, given that it has introduced health foods and low-fat diets in Western European nations, but not in India?
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