South-Western - Management  
McDonalds Gets Healthier but Burgers Still Rule
Topic Ethics and Social Responsibility
Key Words McDonalds, obesity, fast-food consumers
InfoTrac Reference A130975100
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News Story 

McDonalds Corp., frequently blamed for aggravating a global obesity epidemic, is planning to expand its healthy menu offerings while still keeping the focus on its core menu, burgers and fries. Jim Skinner, CEO blames childhood obesity more on lack of exercise than on overeating in fast-food restaurants. According to Skinner, the caloric intake of teenagers and young adults has risen only 1% in the last two decades, but physical activity has declined 13 or 14%.

McDonalds has faced their share of criticism as society tries to place the blame for the obesity epidemic somewhere. A U.S. federal court reinstituted a lawsuit that alleges that the chain misled young consumers about the health of its products. The movie "Super Size Me" portrayed a man who grew increasingly ill after eating nothing but McDonalds for a month.

In response to these criticisms, the chain plans to introduce new salads and is promoting fruit as a side item. The chain is also planning to test deli-style sandwiches in the U.S., feeling the pressure from chains like Subway and Cosis, who can typically charge higher prices for their food. The company is proceeding cautiously with its menu tweaks so as not to alienate fast food's main consumer: young men.


Does McDonalds have a social responsibility to provide healthy foods in its restaurants? Be prepared to debate your answer in class.


The CEO of McDonalds says the chain is moving cautiously to implement new, healthier items because they don't want to alienate their core customers, and lose the focus on burgers and fries. If you were a VP of McDonalds in charge of the menu, would you focus on introducing new, healthier items, or would you still emphasize burgers and fries? Explain your rationale.

Source "McDonalds Gets Healthier but Burgers Still Rule," Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23, 2005, p.B7.
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