McDonald's says it will continue to offer a lunchtime delivery service to Hong Kong schools and argues the root cause of childhood obesity is not hamburgers but computer games and lack of exercise.
Speaking for the first time on the controversy, Joseph Lau, managing director of McDonald's Hong Kong, said childhood obesity 'concerns me a great deal'. However he insisted: 'Attacking McDonald's for delivering to schools isn't going to solve the problem.'
The South China Morning Post has published a stream of readers' letters over the past three weeks both criticising and supporting McDonald's after the newspaper reported that parent-teacher groups were concerned over the school deliveries.
'Every parent is concerned about the health of their children but let's go back to the root cause of it,' Mr Lau argued. 'People are less active because they spend more time with computers, video games and on the internet.
'When we were young, we didn't have those gadgets. We went out and played basketball and went roller skating.
'Today children don't do that because they roller skate and play basketball in video games.
'When they sit at their computers, what do they eat? Not McDonald's. They may eat McDonald's sometimes but more usually it is chips and snacks.
'That is the root cause. Today people spend less time choosing a balanced diet and almost no time exercising.'
Mr Lau said McDonald's did not have a monopoly on school deliveries. 'A lot of people deliver to schools. If you look at those rice boxes with those oily ingredients, you will think we are not that bad at all. The problem is the minute people hear the word McDonald's they think they are eating a Big Mac every day.'
McDonald's has launched a series of healthy eating initiatives in the past two years aimed at school children and has sponsored a soccer scheme which has attracted more than 25,000 recruits and a pedometer promotion.
'In the past 12 months, McDonald's has been very active in promoting a balanced lifestyle in a way that has nothing to do with selling hamburgers,' Mr Lau said.