McDonalds loses heart tick as Heart Foundation departs takeaway food endorsements

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 21st September 2011

The National Heart Foundation of Australia today announced it will be ending its Tick licensing program in the takeaway food environment.

Heart Foundation CEO Dr Lyn Roberts said, “We knew working in this area would be a bold move – and it was – but our work behind the scenes has seen massive improvements across the food supply chain, including healthier oils now being used in many takeaway and catering food outlets.

“This even led to a change in the type of canola grown by Australian farmers – which has helped ensure that healthier ingredients are available to the entire food industry. However, it’s time for us to broaden our efforts and work towards changes across the takeaway and catering sector.”

McDonald’s Australia is one of several fast food outlets that has been selling takeaway food products endorsed with the Heart Foundation Tick.

Dr Roberts said the Heart Foundation will continue to work with the Food and Health Dialogue as part of the Australian Government’s initiative to set targets for food companies to reduce salt and saturated fat, and increase the fibre, wholegrain, fruit and vegetable content of commonly consumed foods.

“We think consumers have the right to know how much saturated fat is in their morning muffin and how much hidden salt is in their sandwich,” said Dr Roberts.

The Heart Foundation is to make nutritional information publicly available through quarterly audits of the foods Australians eat most often.
According to the Heart Foundation, 2.7million Australians eat fast food every day, two out of three men and more than half of all women are overweight or obese and 46,000 Australians a year die from cardiovascular disease.

McDonald’s Australia spokesperson Laura Keith told Australian Food News, “Our commitment to serving quality food and improving nutrition will continue by making further enhancements to our menu, introducing new products and providing more ways to access information about our products, including a national roll out of kilojoule labelling on our menu boards from November this year.”

“For more than 10 years, McDonald’s Australia has been committed to providing more choices for adults and children, reducing sugar and salt content across our menu, changing to a healthier vegetable oil and ensuring transparency in labelling,” Ms Keith added.

Australian food industry legal expert Joe Lederman from specialist law firm FoodLegal, when contacted for comment by Australian Food News, said “healthier meal” endorsements could attract more customers but there was strong survey evidence from the USA that the ultimate eating patterns do not necessarily change substantially.

Mr Lederman illustrated this with an example of a fast food outlet that offers a “healthier meal” option such as a grilled fish alternative to fried fish. Studies had shown that having a healthier meal choice reduced the feelings of guilt for some people considering going into the place to buy a meal. However, the studies also show this does not necessarily translate to choosing the ‘healthier’ meal at the point-of-sale.

“So a fish shop that advertises ‘grilled’ fish can attract more customers than a fish shop that advertises ‘fried fish and chips’. However, once inside, more customers can feel quite comfortable ordering the fried fish with potato fries instead of the lower-fat grilled fish alternative that is being advertised on the shop window,” Mr Lederman said.