• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 5:00am
PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 3:55am

Meat of the McDonald's problem lost in McFlurry

The folk at McDonald's must be scratching their heads. What kind of people stuff their faces with junk yet care about sell-by dates? What in the world is quality junk?

Celebrity chef and anti-junk-food campaigner Jamie Oliver, who has just opened a restaurant in Hong Kong, must be confused too. Not long ago, McDonald's was forced to remove a key ingredient after he showed how beef trimmings are washed in ammonium hydroxide to obtain what he called "pink slime" for use as filling for burgers.

The average fast food burger meal contains staggering amounts of empty carbs, sodium, sugar, unhealthy fat and chemical preservatives, making it the perfect incubator of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. And as burgers, fries and sugary drinks replace noodle soup and tea, the effect on public health is all too evident.

In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported this week that more and more younger people are becoming diabetic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) projects that 50 to 57 per cent of the Chinese population will be obese by next year.

Comparing the number of fast food transactions with body mass index (BMI) in 25 high-income countries between 1999 and 2008, WHO researchers found that as the average number of annual fast food transactions increased from 26.61 to 32.76 per person, average BMI increased from 25.8 to 26.4.

That's why the McDonald's staff website, McResource Line, was last year caught advising its own employees to stay away from what they serve.

"Avoiding items that are deep fried are your best bet," said the detailed advisory on the website. The accompanying pictures of foods to avoid were uncannily similar to the staples at the Golden Arches.

Fast food companies, more than anybody else, know the real problem of their wares - and stale meat is not one of them. The irony of the entire "rotten meat" episode is that it actually lends credibility to junk food by giving the impression that the only problem with a processed burger is the stale meat.

But changing the meat and finding a new supplier would have about the same effect on burgers as changing the tobacco in cigarettes. Wonder what all the fuss is about, then.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Some years ago McDonalds introduced a McLean sandwich which reduced the amount of fat in their burger from 20% to 10%. No one bought it. Sales were something like 1% of the sales of the full fat version and they had to withdraw the offering. You can't just blame McDonalds, lack of demand for healthier products a significant part of the story.
It's not only the fast food chains serving junk food but look how many meters of shelf space cup noodles occupy in the supermarkets. Cup noodles are as bad junk food as what you get in the fast food chains.
Michael Lee
Good one!
This dates me. But I can remember when Mac Donald's either shipped all of their ingredients in or owned and operated their own farms to grow their own food for production. Times have changed. In the U.S., most fast food chains source their chicken nuggets from Poultry giant Tyson's. I must disclose that my neighbor used to work for them and their HQ is but 20 miles from my permanent home. Why Mac Donald's is using a less well known supplier than the other chains, that I don't know. Tyson's IS expensive, no doubt.
Have there been any rumours to the effect that McDonald's is about to replace the vegetable oil in their deep fat fryers with ghee and the Big Mac with chicken tikka masala, the highly healthy British national dish?
So you recommend CY Leung, with all the problems he's already dealing with, become like Michael Bloomberg and go after junk food??
I had a chat about the issue with an Australian living in Arkansas (the poultry capitol of the U.S.) about the issue. Interestingly a friend at Tyson has been making trips over the years to Indonesia instead of China. That caught my attention, though I never asked why Indonesia, not China? Tyson supplies Mac Donald's in the U.S., at least in the south. The topic conversation with my Australian friend was whether Tyson would exploit this opportunity to contact Mac Donald's about becoming a supplier in Hong Kong. However, Tyson's aren't the cheapest. Usually their brand is the most expensive in the supermarket. But is using a cheaper supplier really cheaper, considering the damage to Mac Donald's reputation?


SCMP.com Account