Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


McDonald’s counts the calories in CSR deal

October 2011

McDonald’s has agreed to introduce calorie information to all of its UK menus in collaboration with the Department of Health, the most significant of the Conservative Party’s much-heralded ‘responsibility deals’ yet.

Its 1,200 UK outlets will display menu-board calorie information on ‘meals’ – usually a combination of a burger, fries and a soft drink – in addition to the nutritional information already shown for many of its products.

McDonald’s has joined Greggs, Starbucks and Burger King in signing up to the Out of Home pledge, one of the government’s public health responsibility deals. As part of the deal, companies voluntarily work in partnership with government to agree on responsible actions in order to avoid regulation.

The government says its deals, announced by the Tories before last year’s general election (EP11, issue 11, p9), “deliver faster and better results” than legislation.

McDonald’s has also signed up to a number of other pledges, including ones on the removal of harmful trans fatty acids, promoting physical activity and occupational health standards.

UK health minister Andrew Lansley said: “One in six meals are now eaten outside the home and, for those meals, we often have no idea how many calories we are eating. That is why this is such a great achievement by the Responsibility Deal. It will help people spot those hidden calories and keep an eye on their waistlines.”

The government claims the move will have a “huge effect on the high street and will help people make healthier choices when they are eating out”. But research suggests that calorie information has little or no effect on eating habits in fast food outlets, and that customers would be much better served if the meals themselves were healthier, or if more meaningful information was provided. Supermarkets, for example, are required to show their products’ saturated fat, salt and sugar content as a percentage of the recommended daily intake.

In New York, where McDonald’s has been providing calorie information since 2008, the average lunchtime intake per person fell by just 44 calories, less than one of its barbeque sauce dips, from 829 to 785.

McDonald’s UK chief executive Jill McDonald said: “This move supports the principles we believe are important: giving our customers clear information to help them make decisions that are right for them and provide a choice on our menu.”

There are currently responsibility deals in action on obesity and recycling. While the government has been successful in recruiting high-profile names to the deals, in the majority of cases companies have not signed up to either.

McDonald's | UK & NI Ireland | Health and safety

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