Nutritional Advice from
McDonald's & Coke

McDonald's and Coke fund healthy eating drive

Claire Cozens
Friday June 14, 2002
The Guardian (UK)

McDonald's

Fast food companies including McDonald's and Coca-Cola are helping to fund a
multimillion pound advertising campaign urging Americans to eat more
healthily.

In an effort to avoid tobacco-style lawsuits, food giants including
Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Heinz are to use internet, TV and press ads
to warn consumers that eating too much fast food will make them fat.

The campaign follows similar moves by McDonald's to persuade French
consumers not to eat too much of its food.

In France the fast food giant has run "advertorials" in women's magazines
featuring comments about diet and advice from nutritionists.

The latest scheme is designed to reduce obesity among children in a country
where 60% of the population is classified as overweight or obese, and more
than 300,000 deaths each year are attributed to obesity-related illnesses.

Food companies are worried if the problem continues they could face the
threat of similar lawsuits to those being brought against tobacco firms.

There is also concern governments may try to crack down on fast food
advertising or impose mandatory health warnings.

But organisers denied the campaign was in response to the threat of
lawsuits.

Susan Borra, a dietitian from the International Food Information Council
foundation, said it had been working on the scheme since 1998.

"We have done extensive research with children and families to provide
information that encourages and supports them to move toward healthier
lifestyles," she said.

And she insisted there was no contradiction in having fast food companies
help fund the campaign.

"It is possible to have a McDonald's and still eat healthily, as long as you
also eat fresh fruit and vegetables, drink milk and have sensible portions.
Obesity is a complex issue - it's about people using their cars more, taking
less exercise, having less time to cook at home and other lifestyle
changes," she said.

The campaign is based around a website offering healthy eating and exercise
tips for families that will go online later this month.

Kraft Foods, one of America's biggest makers of snack foods, Pepsi, Unilever
and Monsanto are also helping to fund the scheme.

The number of American children who are overweight or at risk of becoming
overweight is now one in four, a three-fold increase since 1980.

The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recently called obesity
"the health problem of the century".

Lawsuits have already been filed in New York and Florida claiming that
processed foods with little nutritional value have misled consumers.

John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University, has said US
states with billion dollar public health problems could eventually claim
food companies were partly responsible.

"You may not be able to prove that somebody got fat because of a particular
product, but you can prove that the companies may have misrepresented, by
omission, what is in their foods," he said.

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