For years, health experts have warned that a daily diet of fast food is almost guaranteed to cause obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other life-shortening conditions.
Recently, however, fast food chains like McDonald’s have made changes to their menu items to make them healthier and more natural. Now, one former McDonald’s CEO is so confident about the healthy changes that he plans on eating from the fast food chain every day in order to ‘live forever.’
For years, fast food has been about making and serving cheap food quickly, efficiently, and consistently. To make sure the food always tasted and looked the same in restaurants across the country, fast food companies began serving food full of artificial flavors, preservatives, and other additives.
An Unstoppable Model
For a long time, serving food full of chemicals and preservatives worked for the companies. It kept food costs low and guaranteed a consistent product. Fast food giants like McDonald’s seemed unstoppable, however, that all changed when people started caring about the food they were eating.
Warning The Public
Most people who ate regularly at fast food chains knew the food wasn’t the healthiest, but they didn’t realize just how bad it really was. However, people started realizing the truth when nutritionists and health officials started warning the public about how unhealthy the food really was and the numerous health risks associated with eating fast food regularly.
Over the years, people across the United States have become increasingly health conscious. Not only did people become worried about the high fat, sodium, calorie, and sugar levels in fast food, but they were also concerned about all the artificial additives and chemicals lurking in things like meat, bread, and cheese.
A Change of Plans
In recent years, the public’s distrust over the ingredients and quality of the food served at fast food restaurants has hit their bottom line. In the past, major chains never had any plans on improving the quality of their ingredients since it would increase food costs and decrease their profits. But now they didn’t have much choice in the matter.
The Only Way Forward
If the companies wanted to stay in business and increase their profits, they would have to change the public’s perception of their food. The only way to do that was to serve the type of food people wanted to eat. That meant making the food fresher and more natural.
A Food Journey
According to executives at McDonald’s, they have been working hard over the past few years to do just that. “Since 2014, McDonald’s USA has been on a food journey. We’ve been laser-focused on using our size and scale to implement meaningful changes across our entire menu, changes that we know are important to our customers, our franchisees, our people and our planet,” the company explained in a press release.
In 2016, McDonald’s took out artificial preservatives from their Chicken McNuggets. They also removed high-fructose corn syrup from their buns that year. Then in 2018, the changes continued when McDonald’s announced that they were replacing frozen beef used in Quarter Pounders with fresh beef.
The Next Step
Earlier this year, the company also announced they were going to be offering healthier Happy Meal options. Then in late September 2018, the company announced yet another change to the menu. This time, McDonald’s explained they were reformulating many of the items on the menu to remove artificial preservatives.
Focusing on Ingredients
“We’ve evolved everything from when we serve certain items, to how we cook our beef patties, to the ingredients we use across our menu. And now, we’ve taken that journey to new heights,” the company said about the new changes to their menu on September 26, 2018.
As of September 26, all the classic burgers, including the hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, McDouble, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Big Mac, are being made without any artificial preservatives. According to the company, the changes to the menu items affect all 14,000 restaurants in the United States.
Commitment to Quality
“This development demonstrates our commitment to leading with the customer and building a better McDonald’s,” Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s USA President, said in the press release. “We know quality choices are important to our customers. From switching to 100 percent fresh beef in our quarter-pound burgers, cooked right when ordered in a majority of our restaurants, to removing artificial preservatives in our Chicken McNuggets®, we’ve made significant strides in evolving the quality of our food—and this latest positive change to our classic burgers is an exciting part of that story.”
A Big Challenge
In order to remove the preservatives from the items, everything from the cheese to the sauces had to be reformulated. The challenge was creating a product that tasted and looked exactly the same just without the preservatives. According to the company, preservatives like sorbic acid, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and calcium disodium EDTA had been in the cheese, Big Mac Special Sauce, buns, and beef.
A Work in Progress
Now, those items are preservative free as well as being free of added artificial colors, flavors, and fillers. However, not every ingredient and item on the menu has been reformulated. According to the company, they haven’t been able to remove preservatives from the pickles yet and don’t know when that will be possible.
According to McDonald’s, just a third of the items on the menu still contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Those items include Egg McMuffins and Filet-O-Fish. At some point, those items may be reformulated, but the company is busy rolling out other changes to their menu in an effort to regain customers’ trust.
People Care About Their Food
“We understand that now more than ever, people care about their food – where it comes from, what goes into it and how it is prepared – and we are committed to make changes to our menu our guests feel good about,” Linda VanGosen, McDonald’s Vice President of Menu Innovation, said in a press release.
By 2020, the company also plans to sustainably source all McCafé coffee and source a portion of their beef from suppliers participating in sustainability programs. By 2025, the company also plans to transition to cage-free eggs in restaurants throughout the United States and Canada.
“We are getting smarter and wiser every day about what we are putting into our bodies, what we are doing to the environment. McDonald’s and FAT Brands [are] doing the same thing,” Rensi said during an interview with FOX Business.
A Daily Customer
“Everybody is looking very hard at being as clean and as natural as it can possibly be because it’s good for our people. I love it, I applaud it, I hope everybody does it and I want to live forever. I eat at McDonald’s every day and I eat at FAT Brands every day. I love it.” According to Rensi and executives at McDonald’s, they don’t believe the changes in quality will have much of an effect on the prices.
The Only Issue
“The only issue really is distribution,” Rensi explained. “In a chain of distribution over time for perishable goods, as you tighten up the supply chain and you get closer and closer to the farm the easier it is to manage that… So I don’t think it’s going to be more expensive. I think it’s going to be better for you and by the way, if it is more expensive I think people are willing to pay the price for quality.”