McDonald's mistrusted over its health motives

McDonald’s efforts to tackle obesity have failed utterly to chime with the British public, according to a study commissioned by PRWeek.

More than four out of five consumers believe measures such as the inclusion of fresh fruit and salads, and the reduction of salt, are just a cynical ploy by the fast-food giant.

Thirty per cent ‘strongly’ believe that McDonald’s initiatives merely pay lip service to the obesity debate, with nearly 51 per cent believing this ‘slightly’. Almost the same number (77 per cent) believe fast-food chains have a responsibility to improve health and diet.

Opinion Matters polled 1,076 consumers over the second Bank Holiday weekend (27-29 May).

The findings came as ‘no surprise’, said McDonald’s head of UK corporate affairs Nick Hindle. ‘We’ve let a perception of our brand and how we do business to be created over time, and it veers far from the reality,’ he added. Agreeing the firm had a ‘responsibility when it comes to obesity’, he also admitted it should ‘talk in a less corporate way’, and even ‘employ a self-deprecating and understated British tone of voice’, adding: ‘We must make an effort to create a dialogue with stakeholders and customers.’

McDonald’s UK CEO Steve Easterbrook last week took on Eric Schlosser – author of Fast Food Nation, the diatribe exposing the junk-food industry’s practices– in a debate on BBC’s Newsnight.

The findings come as the firm seeks to tackle critics of  with a new website, www.makeupyourownmind.co.uk, which explains its position on health, employee and environmental issues.

But the chain is again about to risk the wrath of health campaigners as it prepares to launch a ‘Bigger Big Mac’, plus a new burger range.

In the UK, Blue Rubicon handles its corporate PR and employment reputation, The Red Consultancy its consumer and sporting PR, and Bell Pottinger Public Affairs its lobbying brief.

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