Golden Arches Banned by Royal Decree

Discussion
Mar 02, 2007

Commentary by George Anderson

There’s no doubt the lads who called themselves The Sex Pistols were being a wee bit unkind when they suggested lyrically that Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth of England, was not a human being.

Of course, had Messrs. Rotten, Vicious, et al. been singing about her sod, …er son, Prince Charles, they would have been spot on.

In case you missed it, the Prince of Wales and potential future king of England was out and about recently when he suggested that obesity in Arab Gulf states could be dealt with if those countries would just shut down McDonald’s.

“Getting anywhere with McDonald’s? Have you tried getting it banned? That’s the key,” dummy Prince Charley said with royal authority to a nutritionist at the Imperial College London Diabetes Center in Abu Dhabi.

McDonald’s, as would be expected, was not at all pleased that a Royal tried to use it as a scapegoat in what is clearly an issue of personal choice and, in the case of children, parental responsibility.

The restaurant chain issued a statement that the Prince’s remarks indicated he is “clearly unaware of some of the moves we have made over time to improve choice and variety on our menu … including the introduction of fruit, carrot sticks, salads and organic milk.”

A spokesperson for the Prince said he was simply trying to make the point that people, especially children, should enjoy the widest variety of foods for optimum health and, of course, (our words) they should never go to McDonald’s.

Discussion Questions: What role/responsibility do food companies have in the obesity and related health “epidemics” around the world? What grade would you give companies involved in food sales for responding to the call by health professionals for more nutritious products?

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14 Comments on "Golden Arches Banned by Royal Decree"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

In Abu Dhabi, more than one fifth of the population aged 20 through 79 has diabetes and 40% of the population is deemed “at risk.” Any nation with those health statistics might well discuss an extreme position. Why should the source of the question or the source’s love interests matter?

Brian Smith
Guest
Brian Smith
15 years 2 months ago

People are confusing dietary concerns with capitalist concerns.

Current industrial food production is based on low-cost commodity fillers, namely high-fructose corn syrup, partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, etc. Processing also removes nutrients and adds preservatives. In this production cycle, profit is maximized at the expense of nutrition. Considering that McDonald’s also adds sugar to its salads, efforts to add carrot sticks to the menu are like stocking the ER with band-aids. Those menu items exist as PR pacifications.

jared colautti
Guest
jared colautti
15 years 2 months ago

A faint parallel can be drawn between restaurants/CPGs and the medical profession. Just as patients aren’t aware of the intricate details of their own physiology and must rely on their doctor, consumers aren’t aware of the processes taken to produce packaged and restaurant foods and must rely on those companies to provide us with products that aren’t damaging to us.

It seems that assumption isn’t the case, however, as can be seen with the uproar over trans fats. So, while the bulk of the blame can be put on consumer’s poor choices, restaurants and CPGs need to take some responsibility. Adding yogurt and fruits to McDonald’s menu is lip service. They need to change their core offerings to make them less damaging.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
15 years 2 months ago
If restaurants have no responsibility in the choices people make, then why are they so loathe to put basic nutritional info next to every choice on the menu? We get to see that in the grocery store, it’s right there on the box we’re about to put in the cart. But heaven forbid McDonald’s put the calories, fat content, carbs, and protein right next to that Big Mac. Why? Consumers would run away screaming if they actually knew how bad what they’re eating is for them. And sit-down restaurants, with their overblown portions, are just as bad. Sure people have to take ownership over what they put in their bodies, but those little pamphlets hidden behind the stack of high chairs (if they’re out at all) makes it difficult for consumers to figure out what the healthy choices actually are. If the salad comes loaded with croutons and cheese, that cheeseburger might end up being a better choice. And as a mother of 2 kids under the age of 5, believe me, hard as you… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 2 months ago
Food companies giveth and they taketh away. Salads, wow. Dressings with more fat than burgers? Less than wow. Apple slices, excellent. Caramel dipping sauce made almost entirely of sugar? Less than excellent. I could go on. Nutritional information, cool. On websites that are obviously not available when you are actually lining up to place your order? Or leaflets hidden behind high chairs or not available at all? Not so cool. Enough. You get the idea. The responsibility food companies have is to give HONEST information about food, what it contains and how it is made. Also where it comes from. Then people can decide for themselves and satisfy the personal responsibility lobby. Prince Charles? The only thing that shocked me about his comments was the number of people who endorsed them. As I said on another food website for which I write, whatever you think of McDonald’s and the people who eat there, banning would be an excessively oversimplistic solution to the so-called obesity epidemic. But then I’m one of those people who believe that… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

If only every law-abiding person was armed with a fruit cup…oh, wrong argument.

One can, of course, make the standard free-market/personal responsibility arguments (several of us did); but no western nation does–or ever has–operated purely by this model: if it’s OK for some officious government to forbid a parent from serving a glass of wine to their eighteen year old, why not forbid them from serving larded potatoes to their eight year old? The demoralizing effects on society (aka: negative externalities) are the justification in both cases.

Of course Charles of Windsor’s ideas are both blunt and naive: the proscription will ultimately come in more indirect ways: trans-fat restrictions, zoning and litter regulations, special taxes, etc.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Many companies in the restaurant business, the retail grocery trade and CPG manufacturers have stepped up in introducing programs like no trans fats, introduction of whole grain products, salt and sugar reduction, as well as widening menu variety to include healthier choices. However, the major responsibility still lies with parents and individuals to have the discipline to make good choices. Making more healthy choices available is good business for all manner of food companies, bearing the brunt of responsibility for obesity is not fair!

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

These companies have no responsibility because it is up to the individual person to decide what kind of lifestyle and food choices they want to make. It is the responsibility of food companies simply to sell as much product as they can and to separate as much money from consumer’s pockets as they can. Food companies are not responding to calls from health professionals. They are responding to market demand for their products, some of which might have better health benefits. Money talks, health professional’s opinions walk.

Zel Bianco
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Unfair comment by Charles. We all make choices, like who to marry, as obviously Charles made a choice to marry based on criteria other than looks. But seriously, we all have healthy items in our kitchens, like fruit and yogurt and may choose to occasionally eat cookies instead. McDonald’s takes the hit more often than others due to its size and pervasiveness. We as an industry, particularly in the U.S., need to do more to address this issue as it is truly getting out of hand.

I just returned from the IRI Conference in Las Vegas and don’t need to remind anyone who has been to Vegas the amount of obese people that you see walking around. In fact, on my flight out there, the majority of passengers could barely fit down the aisle. It was truly amazing that there were perhaps 10 or 15 people that most would consider to be of normal size and weight.

Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
15 years 2 months ago
I agree with Peter and submit the growth of the quick-casual category as Exhibit A. We’ve all seen fast-food outlets adding healthier choices to their menus, and now McDonald’s is adding specialty coffees; TGI Fridays is experimenting with smaller portions and healthier ingredients. While I think publicity and pressure groups have played a role in these developments, the rise of chains like Panera Bread has probably been more important. Before the quick-casual category, the model was value–fill the customer up with as much fat and sugar as possible for the lowest price possible. Fresh food had built-in handling costs that we all thought made it too expensive to handle on a truly large scale, and we didn’t think the consumer would pay the price or eat the lettuce. Well, surprise! It turns out that Americans, just like Europeans, will eat food that has flavor–and even pay more for the privilege–so the megachains are getting on board. (And–food that has flavor is also better nutritionally.) Now, the discussion question was, is upgrading the menu these chains’… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 2 months ago
One does not have to be of a very vindictive temperament to savor the essentially comic misfortunes of a talentless and, it has to be said at the outset, largely charmless Prince, who, by the accident of birth, happens to be the next custodian of the British monarchical system. With no dragons to slay and no infidels he dares to expel (remember, he wasn’t on his home court), he hits upon the evils of oily Big Mac–not the other oil there–and orders him driven from the kingdom oasis of Abu Dhabi. “That’s bloody courageous, Charlie. No wonder comely Camilla is grinning goofily.” So let’s give Charlie an “A” for frying the French Fries kingdom in the Middle East. While companies have a great and growing responsibility for serving healthy products isn’t it still the primary duty of the “eater” to control what he/she consumes? Thus, let’s assume it is a joint effort between companies and the consumer–not between the Sex Pistols’ undisciplined intellect and Charlie and his feckless family. Let’s give today’s companies a “C+”… Read more »
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 2 months ago

While I disagree with the royal’s opinion about banning McDonald’s, I think celebrities’ comments on social issues like obesity can actually push society in the right direction. Most of us believe that individuals make their own food choices and are responsible for their own health and fitness. Yet, market leaders like McDonald’s can help by offering healthier options. Prince Charles’ misguided comments can actually end up helping by pushing market leaders like McDonald’s to continue expanding their healthier food choices.

I think we see similar trends happening in problem areas such as global warming (Richard Branson), reducing disease (Bono, Bill Gates, Jimmy Carter), reducing poverty, (Angelina Jolie, Oprah)etc. where industry leaders, entertainers, and the like help by making loud comments that push businesses and governments into making donations, cutting emissions, passing regulations, etc.

So, off-base comments like Prince Charles’ can at least boost awareness of problems and push society to start solving them.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Well, first to Zel’s point. One could argue Charles did marry once for looks, but that it didn’t work out so well for him. On to a more serious note: exercise (in relation to caloric intake) is what reduces weight at the end of the day. One can eat well, not exercise at all and still gain weight. Are food companies responsible? The simple answer is David’s “No.” The more complete answer is, “not entirely.” Foodservice companies could do a much better job of portion control. Americans tend to eat as much as in front of them–not unlike horses. Put less in front of us and we’re not likely to order more. On the other hand the quick serve industry in particular uses gluttony as a marketing vehicle. Who doesn’t want a quadruple meat, quintuple cheese, sauce covered pile or organic protein goo for just 99 cents?

There’s a deli by my office that sells sandwiches which weigh three pounds. Clearly there’s a little room for compromise here.

David Morse
Guest
David Morse
15 years 2 months ago
Americans like eating junk food, and I fail to see how food companies are in any way responsible for what we eat. Junk food is not the same as tobacco. In fact, as an ex-smoker, I say if people want to smoke themselves to an early grave, let ’em. Just don’t contribute to the inherent attractiveness it has for kids–that’s what got me hooked a long time ago. All that being said, I see Corporate America going to extreme lengths to promote the Health and Wellness agenda. For many of my clients, H&W has become a corporate obsession, a bandwagon that you’d better get on or you’ll get run over. I’ve seen bad ideas get moved forward, just because those with sense and reason knew that in the interest of career survival, it would be better to keep their mouths shut. We live during wonderful but crazy times. We live in a time when tobacco companies put out ads for people to quit smoking. We live in a time that, despite a war raging in… Read more »
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