McDonald's, the world's largest fast food chain, says it is to tackle the global obesity epidemic.
The announcement comes as more companies respond to government and consumer pressure to address
McDonald's, which often bears the brunt of criticism over
the restaurant industry's penchant for tempting diners with indulgent and often
high-calorie food, said it would offer the option in all of its 20 major global
markets by 2020.
The company also vowed to promote and market only water, milk
and juice as the beverages in its popular Happy Meals for children as part of
its announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting held in New York .
Waist sizes around the world are increasing, setting off
alarms in public health circles.
The US food industry has
in recent years begun yielding to pressure from the government, parents and consumers seeking to
slim down adults and children.
Sugary sodas have been yanked from public
schools; sugar, sodium and calorie levels have been reduced in products and
calorie counts have been posted on some restaurant menus.
The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit
organisation that has tangled with McDonald's over everything from fattening food to the
marketing of Happy Meals, approved of the company's move to add more fruits and
vegetables to the menu.
The centre, says, though that the company and its rivals have a long way to
go in terms of offering healthier options.
"McDonald's slow march toward
healthier meals has made a major advance, but a long road lies ahead for the
company," it said.
McDonald's is seen as something of a trend setter among
restaurant chains, but like many of its peers, it has tended to resist external
efforts to force change.
McDonald's about a year ago said it would begin listing
calorie information on menus in about 14 000 US restaurants and drive-throughs –
ahead of a national rule that would require larger restaurant chains to make
It tweaked its popular Happy Meals for children in July 2011, reducing the french fries portion by more than half and adding apples to every
order. The move came after pressure from various sources, such as parent groups and the Centre for Science.
More than one-third of Americans are obese, and about 10% of
the nation's healthcare bill is tied to obesity-related illnesses, such as Type
2 diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, according to the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development.
McDonald's said its announcement was part of a plan developed
with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which was founded by the Clinton
Foundation and American Heart Association, to increase customers' access to
fruit and vegetables and help families and children to make informed eating and