McDonald’s Happy Meals are getting a complete nutritional overhaul.
“McDonald’s will always try to do the right thing, and we know we can help make a difference in our communities,” Jan Fields, president of McDonald’s USA, said in a press release. “The commitments we’re announcing today will guide the future evolution of our menu and marketing.”
One change is automatically including produce or low-fat options with the Happy Meals.
“By the end of Q1 2012, we will produce apples in every Happy Meal and promote options that meet the new, rigorous Council of Better Business Bureaus Food Pledge nutrition standards,” said Fields. “The impact will be an estimated 20 percent reduction in calories of the most popular Happy Meals, also reducing fat in those meals.”
Other changes will be phased in more gradually.
“By 2020, McDonald’s will reduce added sugars, saturated fat and calories through varied portion sizes, reformulations and innovations. Also, by 2015, McDonald’s will reduce sodium an average of 15 percent overall across its national menu of food choices,” Fields said.
By 2012, all McDonald’s ads targeted for children will include nutritional messages. The company will also fund grassroots nutrition awareness programs.
Access to nutritional information will be improved. McDonald’s is releasing a mobile app so customers can access nutrition information on iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Android devices.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest praised the changes.
“The improvements that McDonald’s has announced for its Happy Meals are an important step in the right direction. It’s good news that those meals will all have apple slices, smaller servings of fries, and fewer calories,” executive director Michael Jacobson said in a press release. “While we wish that Happy Meals would include a bigger serving of fresh fruit or vegetable, including even a small serving—and without a sugary sauce—as a standard component is a real advance.”
According to an educational brief titled “Child Obesity in Indiana: A Growing Public Policy Concern”, fast food is partially to blame for the childhood obesity epidemic.
“Countries around the world have increasing access to processed foods and ‘Western’ foods, such as fast food and candies,” the report notes. “As a result, many countries are beginning to see an increase in the obesity epidemic much like that in the U.S. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of overweight and obese children has doubled in France and Germany in the past 10 years, verifying that these issues are no longer problems that are exclusively American.”
Indiana was third in the nation in the incidence of childhood obesity in 2001, according to the report. However, that rate has declined, and Indiana is now below the national average in the rate of overweight children. The U.S. rate is 13.5 percent; Indiana’s is 11.5 percent.