McDonald's finds niche in health, wellness programs
by Jeff Gelski
CHICAGO — Not everybody may believe the sincerity of any anti-obesity efforts from McDonald’s Corp., but the fast-food chain has found places in nutrition and wellness programs. Steve Hilton, vice president of global government and public affairs for McDonald’s, Oak Brook, Ill., spoke about such efforts July 15 at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in Chicago.
McDonald’s has worked with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the White House, he said. A McDonald’s global advisory council includes Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., distinguished professor of nutrition at The Pennsylvania State Univ. in University Park, Pa., and Adam Drewnowski, a professor of epidemiology at the Univ. of Washington in Seattle.
The fast-food chain is involved with the 5th Gear Kids program in the Denver area. James Hill, Ph.D., from the Univ. of Colorado’s Anschtuz Health and Wellness Center, leads the 5th Gear Kids program, which is designed to provide greater access to physical activity and healthy eating opportunities, and to increase the desirability among fifth-graders to participate in healthy lifestyles.
There must be a balance between business goals and public health goals, Hilton said, but McDonald’s does not want to be alienated by health programs.
“Let’s continue to talk,” Hilton said “Let’s talk more. Let’s continue to meet each other halfway.”
Within McDonald’s, the chain has offered either produce or low-fat dairy in every Happy Meal since 2011. That year the company set a goal to reduce sodium on average by 15 percent overall by 2015. McDonald’s already has reduced sodium by 11 percent across its national menu.
“That is not easy, and it’s still not easy,” Hilton said.
McDonald’s hired Ernst & Young, LLP to perform an examination to verify McDonald’s nutrition progress assertions.
“The way we’re looked at, when we do it, nobody believes us,” Hilton said.