McDonald’s food more unhealthy than 30 years ago

Food at McDonald’s is higher in calories, salt and sugar than it was 30 years ago, according to a report in the Sun newspaper.

Fries, cheeseburgers and quarter-pounders all have more calories today compared to 1989, based on a leaflet distributed by the company at the time.

The amount of sugar in a Big Mac for example has increased 221%, whilst fries have 17% more fat, 21% more salt and 43% more calories. Sugar, fat and calorie contents have also increased in vanilla milkshakes, according to the article.

A spokesman for McDonald’s couldn’t explain the figures. Instead, he highlighted that, since 2005, salt content across the entire menu has been cut by nearly 35%, the trans-fat content of cooking oil by 94% and saturated fat by 83%. “Almost 90% of our standard food and drink items now contain fewer than 500 calories,” he added.

The findings come at a time when the food-to-go sector is under close scrutiny from the government’s health advisors. Earlier this month, Public Health England told companies to cut calories in their products by 20% by 2024. Pizzas, meat products and prepared sandwiches are all in the firing line, and foodservice companies have been told to engage more with the government’s programme to tackle childhood obesity.

McDonald’s said that for 30 years it has provided “clear nutritional information, at point of sale and on tray liners, to help our customers make informed choices”.

High street brands are also signing up to PHE’s new campaign to encourage adults to consume 400 calories at breakfast and 600 for lunch and dinner. McDonald’s has recently been advertising its “range of meals under 400 calories”, whilst Subway is also backing the initiative.

“The 400-600-600 tip can help people make healthier choices when eating and drinking on the go,” said PHE’s chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone. “It’s encouraging to see major high street companies promoting lower calorie options and we hope more will follow suit.”

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