| June 14, 2007 | 1 Comment

McDonald’s Corp. is taking a new tactic to try and make people feel okay about eating their food and feeding it to their children. They are letting six women — all mothers — visit restaurants, processing plants, test kitchens and orchards. Then the women are going to journal, not blog because there will be no opportunity for public comment on the forum, about it. I think USA Today’s headline, “McDonald’s lets 6 moms tell it like it is,” just about says it all.

Except, I wasn’t born yesterday and claims by the company that they won’t be having any input on the journal entries, that the women are getting full access, that the food is actually okay for you . . . well, that just sounds like McDonald’s is trying to pull a thick curtain of wool over our eyes.

Seriously folks, why wouldn’t comments be allowed? That is one of the things that has allowed the blogosphere to flourish – the public dialogue. And who are these women exactly? What about when should instill confidence? Check out this bit about one of the panelists from the USA Today article cited above:

Joanna Canizares, a Miami postal worker, is one of the panelists. She takes her boys to McDonald’s about twice a week, but she worries about trans fats, she says, because her 8-year-old son is “addicted” to Chicken McNuggets.

Canizares says she knows nuggets may not be the ideal food, but “it’s the lesser of two evils” because her son sometimes refuses to eat anything else.

“It’s better than eating nothing — and at least it has some protein.”

Let’s boil this down a bit: if you fed the kids real food at home, they wouldn’t have a taste for the processed and pressed chicken-like substance that has been deep fried to oblivion.

According to McDonald’s website, the four chicken nuggets have 10 grams of protein (assuming the child is eating the regular Happy Meal and not getting a more gargantuan proportion). Meanwhile it’s also got 10 grams of fat and 250 milligrams of sodium. So that “protein” she’s touting as the saving grace to the meal really shies in comparison to all the heart-stopping bad things that are in those nuggets. And that doesn’t even consider the side dish and drink he’s eating too.

Now, if Canizares was eating at home and served a grilled chicken breast (or roasted or whatever) – 4 oz, about half of a breast – to her child, he would consume 27.2 grams of protein – nearly three times the amount found in the nuggets – as well as only 1.5 grams of fat and 76.7 milligrams of sodium. That chicken could be dressed up with delicious and exciting flavors too without impacting the nutritional value.

Obviously, it’s Canizares’ choice what her children eat and don’t eat. And if McDonald’s is okay with her, that’s her prerogative. But McDonald’s chose only women who eat there at least on occasion to participate in this program. What is occasionally though? That’s such a subjective phrase. And if the other women have similar habits to Canizares, won’t they be just a bit more forgiving because they want to feel okay about what their kids are eating?

(Just as a side note, the company says that the women aren’t being paid but their travel is covered by McD’s and they receive a laptop to keep.)

Let’s talk about full access for a minute. Who’s choosing where these women go? The women or the company? Are they going to the source – the slaughterhouses where the animals are killed for their meat? Are they seeing a variety of processing plants, test kitchens and restaurants? To me, all access would mean that these women could choose their destinations. I doubt that will be the case. Chances are McDonald’s will show the women the best of the best to put their best big red shoe forward. And chances are that they will avoid anywhere that would bring negative commentary. And really, you don’t think McDonald’s isn’t going to, um, edit what these women say at all?

If this program is one thing, it’s a brilliant marketing scheme. After all, it’s got people talking. And these women will likely say lovely things about the company and leave feeling much better about their McDonald’s habits. But let’s be real. McDonald’s food is not healthy – it contains insulting amounts of fats (including trans fat) and sodium and lacks the good nutrients that real food has. Do I eat there? Sure, once in a blue moon. But I eat there out of convenience once every few months knowing that it isn’t good for me.

Me thinks the company doth protest too much. If McDonald’s was really serious about appealing to the health conscious consumer, they would clean up their act: eliminate the trans fats now; get their meat from humane slaughterhouses; quit over processing food; offer truly healthy alternatives instead of salads wrought with partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrups; and just be honest. And don’t tell me that publishing their nutritional content (required by law) and ingredients makes them honest. McDonald’s works overtime to fool consumers into believing their food isn’t that bad. Check out their recent ads in magazines like Parents!

Frankly, these women aren’t going to be telling it like it is. Let some real journalists in there to investigate the company’s processes and maybe I will consider believing the outcome. Anything else is just an insult to my intelligence.

Category: Feeding Kids, Raising Healthy Kids

About the Author ()

Sarah Walker Caron is a freelance writer, editor and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in countless online and print publications including iVillage, BELLA NYC Magazine, Yum for Kids magazine and more. She lives in Connecticut with her two kids, two beagles and husband.

Comments (1)

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  1. Sarah says:

    Such an evil, evil company. Those McNuggets are like the opposite of food.

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