Next time a person enters a McDonald’s and orders a Big Mac, they will notice something other than the price next to it: the calorie count.
The food industry behemoth McDonald’s is changing fast food as we know it with a new initiative to post calories beside its food items on menu boards both inside the store and at the drive-thru.
The posting of calories will “further inform and help customers and employees make nutrition-minded choices,” according to a press release issued by McDonald’s USA President Jan Fields,
The press release also outlines some of the menu changes that McDonald’s plans to impose during 2013. Some of these items include more seasonal fruit and vegetable options and the choice for grilled chicken in Happy Meals.
The chain will also feature new breakfast options; such as egg white breakfast sandwiches and English muffins now made with eight grams of whole grain.
States such as New York and California, as well as a handful of cities in America, already have calorie posting as a requirement for fast food chains, Pete Bordi, Penn State associate professor of hotel, restaurant and recreation management said.
It is also rooted into President Barack Obama’s proposed healthcare reform bill, which is still being tweaked by the Food and Drug Administration.
Bordi said he believes this is something more than just damage control by McDonald’s.
“McDonald’s wants to be part of the solution, and not just labeled as the problem,” Bordi said. “It’s a better idea than [doing] nothing. If you’re putting it into your body, you have the right to know what’s in it and make a decision.”
Bordi said he believes that McDonald’s is leading the way in offering healthy options, and he also alluded to the changes that can be seen in Penn State’s dining facilities.
He described this as a shift in focus on eating habits, and mentioned that as little as four years ago, a person wouldn’t be able to eat at a fast food restaurant — or a university dining hall — and have healthy options.
“In a culture where we are trained to getting a medium or large drink, something like this may make you consider getting a small,” Bordi said.
Jeff Moyer (junior-recreation, park and tourism management) said he did not believe this would cause a big shift in the fast food industry.
“Personally, it won’t affect what I get,” Moyer said. “Some people will probably be swayed by this, but generally you go to McDonald’s to get what you want.”
Moyer also said that the posting of calories in all fast food restaurants is a reasonable idea, and that it can’t hurt to make people more aware.
Bordi agreed that calorie posting is a good move for the food industry, and that all restaurants should follow this precedent.
McDonalds’ decision to post calories comes on the heels of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on oversize sodas. This ban on extra large drinks has sparked controversy between control and free choice for consumers.
Bordi said he was not a big supporter of the soda ban in New York, but proposed a different option.
“I think one idea might be an incremental tax,” Bordi said. “That way, you still have the option to choose, and the size of the drink would be reflected in the amount of taxes applied to it.”
This announcement follows McDonalds’ latest attempt to make customers calorie-aware in the form of a mobile app, which was released last year. The app is designed to help customers get nutritional information on the go, according to the release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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