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Thu, Oct 27, 2005 - Page 12 News List

McDonald's says it is going to come clean on nutrition

JUNK?Dodging charges that it food is unhealthy, the fast-food giant announced that it is going to display nutrition facts on its packaging - but critics are skeptical

AP , CHICAGO

A Big Mac, Coke and fries are shown at a McDonald's in Chicago on Tuesday. Nutrition information will now be displayed on the majority of McDonald's product packaging using an easy-to-understand icon and bar chart format, the company said.

PHOTO: AP

Make it a burger, fries and nutritional information to go.

Seeking to counter charges that its food is unhealthy and contributes to obesity, McDonald's Corp announced on Tuesday that it will display nutrition facts on the packaging for most of its menu items next year.

Patrons of the world's largest restaurant company will be able to learn the amount of calories and fat, among other information, in a McDonald's product by looking at the wrapper instead of having to go to its Web site or ask for it at the counter.

The fast-food industry has been under pressure from consumer groups and the government to give more nutritional information about its food. McDonald's and others had previously made calorie count brochures available, resisting calls to do more.

In announcing the latest push to improve its image on health issues, McDonald's said it demonstrates its commitment to promoting balanced, active lifestyles. CEO Jim Skinner also said the move responds to demand by customers, not consumer groups.

"This was a way for us to close that loop and provide [customers] with an easy way to understand the nutrition information in the food that they're eating," he said.

The new packaging will be introduced in McDonald's outlets in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America starting in the first half of next year. The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said it expects to have the packaging available in more than 20,000 of its 30,000-plus restaurants worldwide by the end of the year.

McDonald's has been a magnet for complaints that fast food is unhealthy. It was targeted by the 2003 documentary Super Size Me -- which focused on the health risks of an all fast-food diet -- and hit with a lawsuit blaming the company for the obesity of teenage customers, although that suit was dismissed.

The packaging information will consist of icons and bar charts displaying how McDonald's menu items relate to daily recommendations for calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates and sodium.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health advocacy group, called the move "a useful step in providing customers more, and more read-able, nutrition information." But the Washington-based organization, which has long urged fast-food companies to both provide more information and offer healthier food, was muted in its praise and said McDonald's should provide calorie counts on its menu boards.

"Considering America's obesity epidemic, that calorie information would do more than just about any other measure to help people protect their waistlines," CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson said.

He also said that instead of giving total fat content, McDonald's should have been more specific since its fried foods are high in saturated and trans fats, which increase the risk of heart disease.

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