Monday, June 21, 2004

Super Size Me

It looks like the fast food industry will be getting its come-uppance with the documentary "Super Size Me" featuring Morgan Spurlock.

"A few days into his grand experiment of eating all McDonald's, all the time, for 30 days straight, the New York film-maker Morgan Spurlock started complaining of headaches and other unpleasant side-effects: listlessness, depression, chest pains, shortness of breath, sexual dysfunction and more. His headaches, however, almost certainly pale in comparison to the giant, throbbing one his much-discussed documentary Super Size Me is causing the executives who run Ronald McDonald's global empire."

What kind of effect has the documentary had?

"The Australian distributor, Dendy Films, reacted to the McDonald's television advertising campaign by claiming that cinema managers were having to spend longer cleaning up auditoriums where Super Size Me has been showing because people alarmed by the dangers of bad eating presented on screen were leaving behind full cartons of popcorn and soda cups."

I wish I could be certain that this sort of junk-food abstention would be long lasting.

This documentary has had something of an effect on McDonald's because they are trying to sell what looks like, cosmetically, to be a healthier alternative. However...

"One of the most galling aspects of Super Size Me, from the company's viewpoint, must have been its illustration of the calorie and sugar content of even these new "healthy" items. The film demonstrates - using McDonald's own nutritional data - that some of the salad dressings are as bad as anything else on the menu. The Caesar salad with chicken première, for example, contains more fat than a cheeseburger."

"Another McDonald's announcement came on the very eve of Super Size Me's US release on 6 May: the introduction of the "Go Active Happy Meal", complete with salad, free exercise manual and a Stepometer for customers to monitor their daily walking regime. Again, the company insisted the timing was a coincidence."

And in case you read any articles or hear any spokesmen for scientific communities defending McDonald's and other fast food companies, consider the following:

"an outfit called the American Council on Science and Health started ripping into Super Size Me in a series of press releases, op-ed pieces and capsule opinions offered by purported dietary and health experts. Another organisation, called Tech Central Station, offered itself as a clearing house of opinion and factual evidence, condemning Spurlock's film as a scurrilous, misleading, "disgusting", "dangerous" and "dishonest" piece of work.

The American Council on Science and Health has not publicly disclosed its corporate donors since 1991, but in the past they have included crisp manufacturers, chocolate manufacturers, Burger King and Coca Cola (a business partner of McDonald's). Tech Central Station, meanwhile, is backed by the oil giant ExxonMobil, General Motors and, yes, McDonald's.

One op-ed piece, by the food industry lobbyist Jim Glassman, made its way into a couple of US papers, including the St Louis Post Dispatch, which apologised after it discovered his direct links to McDonald's."

Now if only someone would do an expose on Tim Horton's donuts and coffee.

No comments: