McD’s Fries: Great Taste, More Trans Fats

Discussion
Feb 10, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Improvements in food testing helped McDonald’s discover an unpleasant fact about the company’s famed French fries. They have one-third more trans fats than the company previously thought.


The announcement by McD’s comes at a time when the company begins disclosing the nutritional data for the items on its menu on new packaging. Federal guidelines for trans fats urge consumers to “just say no” to ingesting any trans fats, which have been show to increase bad cholesterol and the risk of heart attack.


Back in 2002, McDonald’s pledged to reduce the trans fats in its fries but the company has been reluctant to tinker in a way that would dramatically alter the taste of the product.


Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), told The Associated Press, “Nutritionally it’s a disastrous product. McDonald’s could fry in canola oil or other liquid oil.” The company already uses other oils in countries including Australia, Denmark and Israel, he said.


Cathy Kapica, global nutrition director for McDonald’s said the company is proud of its menu options.


“It is important to note that McDonald’s menu has a wide range of choice and variety, with an array of portion sizes, including three options with french fries – small, medium and large,” she said.


Moderator’s Comment: Will the announcement that McDonald’s French fries contain higher level of trans fats result in slower sales of the menu item? How
should McDonald’s handle this from a stakeholder communications standpoint?

George Anderson – Moderator

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13 Comments on "McD’s Fries: Great Taste, More Trans Fats"


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Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 23 days ago

I doubt that sales of fries will go down significantly for McDonald’s. Hopefully, McDonald’s will now move to use other oil when making the fries. If they do so promptly, it’s even possible that the people eating the fries will not even notice a change and will just end up eating “healthier” fries.

MARGUERITE INGOLD
Guest
MARGUERITE INGOLD
15 years 23 days ago

I like thinking I’m eating something healthy. I never really tasted the difference. We don’t really need all the fat. Just so long as they are hot and crispy. As soon as they get cold I toss them anyway. Who needs cold french fries? Now, the Hash browns, that’s a different story!!!!!!!!! No mention of that.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 23 days ago

McDonald’s customers aren’t serious nutritionists. So what should McD’s say? Perhaps Ronald McDonald could be the spokesman and say, “Our tasty greasy fries are great emotional buys and it’s clubby to get chubby. That’s why ‘I’m loving it.'”

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
15 years 23 days ago
First of all, I we need to congratulate McDonald’s on making this disclosure themselves. We just had the ethics discussion earlier this week and this is certainly a good example of good corporate ethics. They have been open about the problem and over the past few years have offered many alternatives for those who want to avoid trans fats. And as someone else said, if this comes from a new technology then there are going to be a lot of others issuing similar announcements. Having said all that, I still love the fries and can’t see giving them up (although I have downsized) anytime soon. I agree with some of the earlier comments. I think the general public, like myself, have reached the point where we no longer know what to eat. Everyday seems to produce a new warning or the revision of an earlier one (does Teflon really cause cancer?). Unless they switch to a new process that offers the same satisfaction (even at a slightly higher price) I will still want my “McDonald’s… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
15 years 23 days ago

If someone buys and eats McDonald’s french fries, the last thing they are concerned about is fat content. If we found out that Jack Daniels Whiskey had more alcohol than originally listed, would liquor sales go down? In my opinion, very few fast food consumers are concerned with nutrition. I saw Ronald McDonald today on TV. His yellow and red outfit made me think of mustard and catsup. I began to to taste the onions, pickles, salt, beef, and cheese in my mind. I could smell the aroma from the burgers. Fat? That never entered my mind.

Dean Cruse
Guest
Dean Cruse
15 years 23 days ago

I can’t imagine this affecting McD’s to any measurable degree. What rational person actually goes to McD’s thinking that it’s good for them?

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 23 days ago

Ever since the movie “Super Size Me,” McDonald’s has recognized that a healthier alternative is important for their audience. This reflects their new management’s position on full disclosure and is very positive. Despite the increased number of TFAs in their french fries, McD’s will continue to ask their “Would you like fries with that” question which generates their profits (along with soft drink sales). This disclosure will have no impact on their french fry sales, since very few customers who go to McD’s are concerned about their TFAs. It will provide more information (and PR) for those who ask for it.

Jeremy Sacker
Guest
Jeremy Sacker
15 years 23 days ago

This will be a mere bump to McDonald’s. I think McDonald’s and other fast food retailers have realized that South Beach, Atkins and other low carb diets may have lost most of their momentum, but they did change the behavior of their consumers. No diet craze has changed the fabric of nutritional attitudes the way that the low carb craze has. Even those who have never attempted the diet seem to be reducing their overall carb intake. McDonald’s and others have responded in the correct manner and expanded menus. I also predict that McDonald’s will not be the last to have to make an admission of incorrect reporting.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 23 days ago

Somehow I can’t believe that the people going to McDonald’s for fries could care less about the amount of or type of fat used. I ventured into one this week for the first time in more years than I can remember and nearly everyone was eating food with fries – the only exception being two middle aged women there for coffee only. But young male labourers, a family with a child eating a happy meal and a couple of hefty young mums with hefty young kids were all knocking them back. I did sample them myself, all in the name of RetailWire I hasten to add, but didn’t manage to finish the portion or my burger. Nasty, nasty, nasty. And nowhere a freshly made hot deli sandwich or salad to be seen.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
15 years 23 days ago
As often happens, these comments raise quite a few more questions than they answer. These are interesting issues. Though anecdotes and statements of personal eating preferences and personal views of “what is going on out there,” are interesting, I would be even more interested in finding out what the data is on this issue. I think I am seeing quite a few assumptions made in this discussion, which may or may not be true, and which may or may not be based on actual data. Are we really so sure that those who eat at McD’s are not interested in healthy food choices? – Are there different segments of the McD’s consumers? What differentiates these segments? Interest in a quick meal? The taste of the food? A baby-sitter to provide a quiet moment for mom or dad? – What segment of McD’s customers order salads? Order them sometimes? Order them frequently? – What segment of McD’s customers NEVER order fries or hamburgers? – Why do parents take their children to McD’s? These are just some… Read more »
Jeff Gray
Guest
Jeff Gray
15 years 23 days ago

I personally like to eat healthy but I don’t eat things that don’t taste GOOD – something plenty of healthy eaters have sacrificed. I’m not ready for sprouts. McDonald’s has plenty of healthy choices without sacrificing their whole menu. I would guess that most McDonald’s customers want good tasting fries. Kids want to go to McDonald’s because they like their food. Unlike 20 years ago, kids can go anywhere to be entertained. Good tasting food is their only key to keeping them as customers. As for adults, the differences are as many as the demographics of a community, but most don’t care.

I say improve upon them when it’s possible, but don’t sacrifice TASTE.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 22 days ago

While I admire Race’s regular pleas for numbers to back up our frequently anecdotal observations, there have been way too many studies that cost the earth to confirm the obvious. There are also, as we all know, lots of ways to manipulate both questions and answers to get results that fit original hypotheses. And, of course, as we also know, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. So admirable and idealistic as he may be, I don’t think that not quoting facts and figures for every discussion necessarily invalidates our comments.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 22 days ago

McDonald’s is a mature business, not a fast growth business. They need to fight and fight for every 1% comp sales increase. If only 2 in 100 customers cuts down on the fries, McDonald’s stock price will feel the impact. I assume the reformulation research is running around the clock. Every 1% of sales is precious.

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