Praise is not a free lunch - By Michael Prager

Michael Prager is an author, journalist, and blogger who writes about obesity, sustainability and other food issues. He lives with his wife and son in Arlington, Mass.
Jul 29, 2011 8:46 AM ET
Campaign: 3BL Blogs

Praise is not a free lunch

I was one of those who expressed qualified praise for McDonald’s Happy Meal changes: Apple slices, smaller French fries, slightly better beverage options. Other commenters, particularly “Appetite For Profit” author Michele Simon, drew different conclusions, which she discusses in a blog post  headlined, “Who Put McDonald’s In Charge of Kids’ Health?" at

I don’t know her, but I follow her Twitter feed and respect what she writes, including this one, even though I find enough disagreement in it that I feel compelled to rejoin, even on a day when I should be writing other stuff.

Let’s start with the headline: To my mind, we did. Doing nothing more than taking full advantage of the capitalist process, they advertised and promoted until we made them, via our billions and billions of purchases, the leader in fast food. They could have spent all that promotional cash and if we hadn’t bought what they were peddling, they would have failed. But we have bought, and now they have enormous influence.

Simon and Marion Nestle, among others, say the changes aren’t very significant — “So all the fuss — and McDonald’s has gotten huge press over this — is about 3 or 4 small slices of apples, one ounce less of French fries, and less sodium,” Nestle wrote on her blog.  “These may be steps in the right direction, but I’d call them tiny baby steps.” — which is about what I said.

I don’t think McDonald’s acted out of goodness. Apart from how it might affect future profits — who will it sell to if everyone dies from poor nutrition? — I don’t think they care one bit about the health of America.  I am hardly ever in the position of defending McDonald’s.

But they still took steps in the right direction.

continue reading