McDonald's continues to look less and less like a food-police "Most Wanted" corporation with a rap sheet to match its notoriety. Instead, the global fast-food leader keeps adding to its shift toward better-for-you fare and toward making healthier food not only accessible to its customers but palatable as well — even including the health of its own employees.
Today, McDonald's USA announced a number of nutrition initiatives, including the news it's adding calorie counts on restaurant and drive-through menus nationwide starting Monday and introducing menu items next year in line with the latest obesity-targeting federal dietary guidelines.
"We recognize customers want to know more about the nutrition content of the food and beverages they order," McDonald's USA president Jan Fields stated in a press release. As the Associated Press notes, "The move comes ahead of a regulation that could require major chains to post the information as early as next year. 'We want to voluntarily do this,' Fields told AP. 'We believe it will help educate customers.'"
While the U.S. Supreme Court this summer upheld "President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, which includes a regulation that would require restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to post calorie information," AP adds, "the timetable for carrying out that requirement has yet to be worked out." And while it's difficult to imagine how its stores could squeeze calorie counts on drive-through or above-counter menus, McDonald's outlets in some US cities already have been required to do so ahead of the impending federal labeling laws.
The chain, which serves 25 million U.S. customers daily, is casting the nutrition disclosures as a business opportunity. "It's a new reason to visit more often," Cindy Goody, senior director of nutrition for McDonald's USA, told Reuters.
The calorie disclosure move has the potential to be a significant follow-up to other recent nutrition-related gambits by McDonald's, including its declaration a year ago of a "Commitments" plan to more healthful food choices, steps to make the Happy Meal more nutritious, and the launch of a mobile app last year that provides customers with on-the-go nutrition information and a meal-builder.
As part of its London 2012 Olympics sponsorship, McDonald's this summer launched a campaign highlighting its several menu options below 400 calories each.
The chain also released its first-ever nutrition progress report and said it will offer its U.S. employees a "voluntary nutrition e-learning program" that will help build employees' knowledge of calories, nutrition and McDonald's menu offerings.
The new menu entries could be among McDonald's most significant better-for-you items ever. One of them will be McWrap, inspired by McDonald's in Europe, featuring fresh vegetables in three different chicken-based recipes and starting at 350 calories (although it reportedly went up to 600 calories in the UK). The outlets also will offer new breakfast choices including an egg-white breakfast sandwich on an English muffin made with 8 grams of whole grain.
With sales momentum in the U.S. rebuilding in August, all of these new "healthy" developments are giving McDonald's another reason to be lovin' where things are headed.