By Lisa Baertlein
Sept 12 A Big Mac and large fries? They'll cost
you 1,050 calories, and beginning next week, McDonald's will
tell its customers that in bright lights on its fast-food menus.
The world's No. 1 hamburger chain said on Wednesday it is
going to start listing calorie information on menus in some
14,000 U.S. restaurants and drive-throughs - ahead of a national
rule that will require larger restaurant chains to make such
McDonald's Corp is a trend setter for restaurants
and its move in this arena - while prompted by regulations and
pressure from public health activists - is likely to force other
restaurant operators to follow quickly.
The state of California and cities like New York already
require that calories be clearly listed on menus. Under the new
U.S. healthcare law, restaurants across the country must soon
put calorie counts and other nutrition details on menus.
The national rules target restaurants with 20 or more
locations, as well as other retail food outlets. Most major
chains have resisted posting such information, without
legislation and the threat of fines.
The date for national compliance has been delayed and is not
expected to be set until after the U.S. presidential election.
McDonald's was slow to warm to calorie labeling.
When labeling proposals were gaining steam several years
ago, McDonald's representatives publicly opposed them. A common
complaint was that rules from one jurisdiction to another were
inconsistent. Some officials also said calorie disclosures would
violate customer privacy.
Cindy Goody, senior director of nutrition for McDonald's
USA, described the company's latest move as a way to help its
customers understand their food choices.
The company, which is in nearly every U.S. community and
serves 25 million U.S. customers daily, is casting the nutrition
disclosures as a business opportunity.
"It's a new reason to visit more often," Goody said.
Calorie and other nutrition information already is available
on the company's website. Listing calories on menu boards allows
customers to use that information when they are making a
decision about what to eat.
Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy for the
nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, thinks the
national calorie labeling deadline will probably be around the
end of 2013 - so customers at McDonald's will be getting the
information about a year earlier than what will be required.
Disclosure rules already have helped convince many
restaurants, including Starbucks Corp, to cut calories
from their food and to highlight healthy options, she said.
Those moves matter because Americans get about one-third of
their calories from eating out, Wootan said.
Amid demands from parents and health activists, McDonald's
also has taken steps to make menu items healthier.
It tweaked its popular Happy Meals for children - reducing
the french fries portion by more than half and adding apples to
This past summer, it rolled out a "Favorites Under 400" menu
that highlights products in that calorie range.
McDonald's also plans to add more fresh fruits and
vegetables to its menu and has set a goal of decreasing
calories, saturated fat and added sugars across its U.S. menu by
Corporate Accountability International has been pressing
McDonald's to make bolder changes to its menus and to stop
advertising to children.
"To truly address its health impact ... the burger giant
(needs) to make more fundamental, far-reaching changes," said
Juliana Shulman, senior organizer for the group's Value the Meal
More than two years ago, Panera Bread Co became the
first national restaurant chain to voluntarily post calories at
company-owned stores. Sandwich chain Subway has used calorie
disclosures to position itself as a healthier alternative to
rivals like McDonald's and Burger King Worldwide Inc.
McDonald's shares were down $0.30 at $90.90 in midday
trading on the New York Stock Exchange.