Last week, in what is yet another example of Big Food’s symbiotic relationship with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), McDonald’s Director of Nutrition, Registered Dietitian Cindy Goody, spoke to her fellow colleagues at the Utah Dietetic Association meeting about the chain’s new “healthy initiatives.” McDonald’s is such a good friend of AND that it is also a “gold sponsor” at next month’s California Dietetic Association meeting.Speaking engagements like these are nothing more than free publicity for the fast food giant, cloaked under the guise of science and nutrition. The food industry is especially adept at co-opting health professionals to help provide a public perception of caring about health. Remember that at one point Dr. Dean Ornish joined forces with the Golden Arches.
A recent interview Goody did with the Salt Lake Tribune about McDonald’s new “healthy” options is chock-full of flagrant instances of deception, healthwashing, myopic nutritionism, and the usual Big Food talking points.
Goody starts by claiming that McDonald’s is “making nutrition more mainstream” with the likes of fruit and maple oatmeal and premium chicken sandwich buns that offer eight grams of whole grains.
The chain’s fruit and maple oatmeal contains approximately 24 grams (6 teaspoons) of added sugar (though it clocks in at a total of 32 grams, some of those are from naturally-occurring sugar in milk, apples, and raisins). Order it without the brown sugar topping and you’re still starting your day with approximately four teaspoons’ worth of sugar thanks to the sweetened dried fruit.
The oatmeal’s “light cream” reads like a science fair project, consisting of: Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Ester of Monoglyceride (a synthetic emulsifier commonly derived from soy) sodium stearoyl lactylate (an additive commonly found in shampoo and soap), sodium citrate, and carrageenan (a controversial seaweed-based thickener).
As for those premium chicken sandwiches that offer a dusting of whole grains (eight grams of whole grain is roughly what you would get in one-sixth of a cup of cooked oats), the ingredient lists tell a rather gruesome tale. This much-revered bun contains over 20 ingredients, including high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and azodicarbonamide, a dough conditioner banned in Australia and the European Union (the United Kingdom being the exception). “Natural flavor” is also tacked on.
The grilled chicken filet, meanwhile, contains maltodextrin (a byproduct of GMO corn), and is prepared with liquid margarine, comprised of liquid soybean oil, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and–trans fat alert!–partially hydrogenated soybean oil.
I can not understand how Goody, as a nutrition professional, can claim any of the above-mentioned products are nutritious.
She also goes on to heap praise on the new “healthier” Happy Meals, which come with smaller fries and the automatic inclusion of apples as well as the option of fat-free chocolate milk. As I explained when they launched in 2011, these Happy Meals are still problematic due to inferior ingredients and high amounts of sugar.