McDonalds, Obesity and Corporate Social Responsibility

It will come as no surprise that America is ranked as one of the top countries grappling with obesity, according to data from World Atlas (2016), along with North America being listed as the top continent where the obesity epidemic prevails the most. This issue begs the question what Americans and surrounding countries can do to curtail these high rankings and begin to embrace health and prosperity.

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A direct correlation is fast food. While French fries and apple pies are good, not dying is better. McDonalds, Wendy’s In –N-Out Burger, and Jack and the Box provide scrumptious and convenient meals, but at what cost? Moderation is the key to dealing with any vice, even when that vice is food. Unfortunately, there are individuals who can’t control the intake of their fast food transforming what was once a casual vice into a full-blown addiction.

McDonalds has an interesting history with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and company accountability. While the corporation continues to publish annual CSR reports that detail monetary and philanthropic donations, they do little to shift their menu to healthier options and smaller portions (McDonalds, 2016). The company continues to avidly market and produce high caloric options towards kids, attempting to seize a target audience at their most vulnerable beginnings (Reilly,2015).

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However the complexities of the fast food industry and accountability are much more nuanced and have been up for discussion for decades. First and foremost, whose responsibility is it to address obesity issues and addictions in America? Is it the fast food corporations? The consumer? The government (Dier,2014)? Additionally, this topic is deeply rooted in issues of economic and class disparities amongst Americans. When you are a single mom struggling to financially put food on the table, quickly feeding your children a meal that costs ten dollars is compelling. Perhaps fast food corporations need to acknowledge these economic disparities and try to address the issues through community discussion and or governmental legislation in the form of smaller sizes or healthier options (p.2).

While this post begs many more questions than it provides answers, I think it continues to be a timely topic for discussion. I would love to hear all of your thoughts on this ongoing and interesting issue.

References

Dier, A. (2014). Study: It’s Not McDonald’s Fault Our Kids Are Fat. Newser.

doi:http://www.newser.com/story/180882/study-its-not-mcdonalds-fault-out-

kids-are-at.html

 

McDonalds (2016) Making a difference

http://www.aboutmcdonalds.com/mcd/sustainability.html

 

Reilly, L. (2015). McDonald’s slapped down for focusing its Happy Meal

advertising on the toy and not the food. Business Insider.

doi:http://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-told-to-change-ads-by-

childrens-advertising-review-unit-2015-5

 

World Atlas (2016) 29 Most Obese Countries in the World.

http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/29-most-obese-countries-in-the-world.html

 

 

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8 Responses to McDonalds, Obesity and Corporate Social Responsibility

  1. Camille says:

    The obesity epidemic certainly is a challenging problem within the United States. As of September 2015, the CDC reported that more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are considered obese, and in 2012 approximately 17% (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years were considered obese. But despite campaigns on behalf of NGOs and other public interest groups – Lets Move; Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC); Institute for Responsible Nutrition and many others – these figures keep rising. In addition, fast food companies like McDonalds have begun to offer salads, published nutritional information, and provide fruit options for kids meals (granted they still spend millions advertising to children) – yet people still buy their kids these meals for lunch everyday.

    Ultimately, I would argue that it is not the company’s responsibility to stop selling people fast-food because people are buying it. Yes, they do take advantage of people’s natural desire for high fat surgery foods, but I have a hard time understanding why they should be banned from sales. I would argue instead the problem is more systemic. Why can people buy a hamburger more cheaply than a head of lettuce or a bag of carrots? The U.S. government subsidizes basic ingredients like corn and wheat spending between $5 – $10 billion a year (Urry, 2015; Arsenault, 2012) so that they can be sold below the cost of production (while healthier, fresh foods receive little to nothing at all). The majority of these few crops are used to feed the livestock that go into these foods, which is what makes these fast foods so unbelievably cheap (Keim, 2008; Pianin, 2012). So, I think if we want to make any actual change in this nationwide health epidemic, there needs to be an inherent change in how we look at agriculture.

    Arsenault, C. (31 August 2012). Corn lobby outgrows US farm subsidies. Al Jazeera. Retrieved from: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/08/2012826114433916589.html
    Keim, B. (10 November 2008). Fast food: Just another name for corn. Wired. Retrieved from: http://www.wired.com/2008/11/fast-food-anoth/
    Pianin, E. (25 July 2012). How billions in tax dollars subsidize the junk food industry. Business Insider. Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/billions-in-tax-dollars-subsidize-the-junk-food-industry-2012-7
    Urry, A. (20 April 2015). Our crazy farm subsidies, explained. Grist. Retrieved from: http://grist.org/food/our-crazy-farm-subsidies-explained/

  2. fbajet says:

    Great topic for discussion. I think we’re already beginning to see a shift in public attitudes to “unhealthy” foods, whether that’s McDonald’s or sugary drinks like Coca-Cola. I think it’s the next big area in public health & social marketing campaigns, maybe even on track to become as big as smoking ads were a few decades ago. For all their CSR efforts, at the end of the day those companies are still about selling unhealthy food, and it rests on policy and education to educate the public otherwise. It’s up to policy to restrict TV ads, for example, so that they don’t bombard young kids with messages that a Happy Hour a day is a good thing to do.

  3. tshuai says:

    Personally, I think that you need to be responsible for what you eat. However, for low-income families with little spare time for cooking, there should be healthy yet low price choices, so that they are not left with fast food as their only option. I know that this is easier said than done. Although it is almost impossible for the government to regulate what restaurants sell, I think that government should come up with campaigns on teaching the public how to prepare quick, healthy, and low-cost meals.

  4. nfong says:

    I’m definitely not opposed to having McDonald’s once in a while, especially when time is tight or there isn’t anything else around in desperate times. However, there comes a point when someone can consume too much fast food and I believe that is the consumers fault. However, it is the fast food corporations and the governments duty to provide accurate information so the general population is well educated and can make informed decisions about what they’re consuming. I understand that it’s difficult for some parents to afford to feed their children, but they could possibly make better choices at places such as McDonald’s if they were more informed about their products.

  5. arikim says:

    I agree. Although I am not a nutritionist (and don’t claim to be), I am aware that everything is better in moderation. McDonald’s is one of my favorite fast and easy food restaurants, however I do not condone eating there everyday. When it comes to families who have a lower income and cannot afford healthier foods, I do commend McDonald’s for creating menu options that will possibly help individuals make better choices.

  6. litingw says:

    Really good post! My sister had worked at CSR department at McDonalds in China last year and i know they are trying to do something even though they are a brand associated with obesity and not-healthiness (haha i made up the word)

  7. huanlin says:

    Really interesting issue for discussion. I think McDonald’s have been trying to improve the health issue by providing salad and juice, however I like your idea that suggests McDonald’s provide healthier options by having a more variety of size options. To me, I can’t really finish the meal, but I don’t want to waste money and food, so I always eat more than I usually do when eating at McDonald’s. However, I still believe that consumers have the ultimate responsibilities for controlling their own food consumption.

  8. ruopianf says:

    Thanks for the great post! For me, I would say McDonalds’s is my comfort food, it heals everything. Though it seems conflictive for a fast-food brand to do something about against obesity, they are showing their responsibility of educating people about a healthier lifestyle, and they know that will make people love McDonald’s more, which is smart. I agree with Stella that one should take their own responsibility of what goes into their body, and I feel like individuals should make their own choices, free from state intrusion. Nudging us to healthier choices is OK, but regulating is not.