“I’m not lovin’ it” – heart attack in a bun

Posted on September 14, 2010

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He might look friendly, but he could cause a heart attack

A corpse is lying on a morgue table. It’s a middle-aged man, a bit overweight. His distraught wife wanders around, not knowing what to do with herself.

In the dead man’s hand is what he sacrificed his life for, something he couldn’t give up, something he just couldn’t live without – or live with, it turned out.

In the dead man’s hand is a McDonald’s hamburger.

McDonald’s just isn’t healthy. No wonder, really – it would be a bit much to expect a mound of ground up meat between two slabs of carbohydrate with a cursory leaf of soggy lettuce to be a well-balanced lunch option. That said, it’s not the only offender; a supermarket pre-packed salad can have upwards of 500 calories per pot. So is a new advertising campaign targeting McDonald’s as the home of heart-attack inducing foods really fair?

The graphic corpse image is part of an American advertising campaign by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and, rather than beating about the bush, takes a direct swing at McDonald’s. Just to hammer home the message, as the advert draws to a close, the golden arches of the trademark ‘M’ appear, along with the words “I’m not lovin’ it”. Ouch.

We can probably safely assume that, had this happened in the UK, McDonald’s would have the organisation down at the courthouse faster than you can say “Big Mac”. On the other side of the pond, though, free speech wins out. Which means if you want to blame obesity and death on McDonald’s, hey, no one will stop you.

Let’s not try to argue that the burger chain is healthy. It’s hard to forget the reports following the launch their salad ranges that the ‘healthy’ option actually contained more calories than a standard burger. And given the global giant’s rise in worldwide profits of 12 per cent to $2.3billion, it’s safe to say that many of us are wilfully opting to shovel fast food down our throats while lining McDonalds’ deep pockets. But is it fair to personify them this way? Are all incidences of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart attacks down to that friendly clown?

To be fair, its nutritional information is fairly transparent these days. Visiting their nutrition counter allows you to create a bespoke grid planning your meal, detailing the fat and calorie content for each item and totting it up as you go along. Individual items don’t seem that bad – a few hundred calories for a portion of chips seems reasonable. But start looking at the totals and it’s not pretty. A meal consisting of a Big Mac (490 calories), a large fries (460 calories) and a large Coca-Cola (210 calories) give a total of 1160 calories. Plus 47g of fat. Worryingly close to daily nutritional limits. Now what’s the right answer the next time they ask if you want to go large?

That said, other fast food chains are similarly transparent too. Burger King has a leaflet with nutritional info (revealing the XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger calorie count of 928). Pizza Hut’s info is a little harder to locate, and they then cleverly list nutritional details by slice – 187 calories per slice of large Meat Feast sounds reasonable; 748 calories for half that pizza sounds a bit more fattening.

Who looks, though? Who, sitting in McDonald’s – or even browsing through the Pizza Hut menu at home – goes and seeks out that nutritional information? Personally, I’m more interested in the deals.

Which brings us back to the point. Whose fault is it – McDonald’s, as the providers of fatty foods, or ourselves, as the consumers? As the now informed consumers, educated consumers, consumers who could look if only we could be bothered. McDonald’s is a nice symbol of fattism, but blaming them won’t solve the problem. That body lying in a morgue could just as easily be clutching a bag of Walker’s crisps or a packed of Jammie Dodgers, but it would still be their own fault.

Image from tankgrrl‘s photostream.

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Posted in: cuisine