The new CEO, Don Thompson, who takes over the helm in July, is already chafing under accusations about the company’s contribution to diet-linked diseases and increasing obesity in children. According to Tiffany Hsu of the Los Angeles Times, he told the meeting,
I love my children dearly. I would never do anything to hurt them or any other children, nor would we as a corporation. Please do me the honor of not associating us with doing something that is damaging to children. We have been very responsible…. Please understand the good that we’ve done.
That is a noble sentiment, but the Full Menu Explorer on the McDonald’s Web site is a graphic indication of the company’s dietary priorities. Healthy choices are a minority add-on, not the focus. McDonald’s has made improvements in nutrition, sustainability and animal welfare, but has a long way to go on all three counts.
McDonald’s is an industry leader, but this leopard would have to change more than a few spots to become a true model of corporate commitment to healthy people on a healthy planet. Sara Deon, campaign director for Corporate Accountability International, put it bluntly in her submission. Addressing Jim Skinner, McDonald’s outgoing CEO, she said:
Mr. Skinner, your tenure may have been good for McDonald’s profits, but this has come at the expense of our kids’ health. Parents and health professionals globally urge you to take Ronald McDonald, and the suite of McDonald’s predatory marketing practices, into retirement with you. As a going away gift to the public, will you and McDonald’s finally stop interfering in public health policy and stop marketing to kids a brand that is burdening a generation with chronic, diet-related disease?
The answer, we know now, was a resounding NO.
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