Meat of the McDonald's problem lost in McFlurry

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 3:55am

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.