Fast Food Has Gotten LESS Healthy Over the Past 30 Years

If you grew up in the 1980’s, you might remember the thrill of getting a Happy Meal every once in a while. Going out for fast-food was a treat back then, not a regular occurrence. But the frequency in which Americans eat fast-food isn’t the only thing that has changed in the past 30 or so years. Though many headlines tell us that fast food is getting healthier as time goes on, others say that this already-unhealthy food has gotten even worse. [1]

Earlier this year, researchers at Tufts University and Boston University looked at 10 popular fast-food joints, including McDonald’s, KFC, and Dairy Queen. They found that the entrees, the sides, and the desserts have exploded in size, in calorie count, and in sodium over the past 3 decades. There is more to choose from, but those newer options have become increasingly less nutritious.

Read: Why You Should Avoid Fast-Food at All Costs

Minus a sugary beverage, the average fast-food entree still contains an average of 770 calories. Compared to 30 years ago, portion sizes are nearly 20% bigger, and entrees contain about 90 more calories. Desserts, in particular, have become bigger belt-busters and artery-cloggers, as about 200 calories have been added to the sweet treats. [1] [2]

Nearly 14% of the daily recommended value of sodium has been added to fast-food sandwiches, and fries now contain about 12% more salt than they did in the days of big hair and heavy metal music. [2]

It goes without saying that these increases have greatly contributed to the obesity epidemic.

Lead researcher Megan McCrory, a research associate professor at Boston University, said: [2]

“Despite the vast number of choices offered at fast-food restaurants, some of which are healthier than others, the calories, portion sizes, and sodium content overall have worsened [increased] over time and remain high.”

Portion sizes, as well, have ballooned in the past 3 decades. Per decade, entree sizes rose by 13 grams and about 30 calories, while desserts increased by 24 grams and about 62 calories – at least. Portion sizes for sides remained about the same, but the number of calories rose by about 14 calories per decade.

Americans’ appetites for greasy fast-food grub has gone through the food, as well. About 37% of Americans hit up a fast-food joint on any given day. Fast food made up 11% of all Americans’ daily calories between 2007 and 2010 – nearly triple what it was between 1977 and 1978 when it was just 4%. [1] [2]

The researchers say posting calorie counts on menus helps buyers make more healthful choices, but menu offerings need to shrink.

Read: CDC – More Than 1 in 3 Americans Eat Fast-Food Every Day

McCrory said:

“We need to find better ways to help people consume fewer calories and sodium at fast-food restaurants. The requirement that chain restaurants display calories on their menus is a start. We would like to see more changes, such as restaurants offering smaller portions at … proportional prices.”

The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sources:

[1] CBS News Boston

[2] Daily Mail

Featured image source: YouTube/Buzzfeed

McDonald’s Announces Key Plans to Curb Antibiotic Use in Beef Supply

One of the top causes of antibiotic resistance is the use of the medicines in livestock. Many factory farms feed animals antibiotics to prevent disease and promote growth. Yet, despite countless warnings that the practice fuels drug-resistant superbugs, it continues to be a serious problem. Thankfully, establishments such as McDonald’s claims to finally be taking more action against widespread antibiotic use.

In recent years, the poultry industry has made some progress in reducing unnecessary antibiotic use. In 2015, McDonald’s announced a plan to prohibit its chicken farmers from using antibiotics considered important to human health, and many other food chains soon followed, including Wendy’s., as well as KFC. [1]

In December, McDonald’s took its efforts to reduce the use of medically-important antibiotics in livestock to the next level when the company announced plans to reduce the use of antibiotics in cows that are part of the fast-food company’s global beef supply.

Source: FDA.gov

Bruce Feinberg, a senior director at McDonald’s Corp., who oversees global quality systems for protein and dairy products, called the plan “probably the most ambitious project that McDonald’s has ever taken on.”

McDonald’s said it will measure antibiotic use in its top 10 beef markets, including the U.S., Brazil, and New Zealand. The company will then set targets for reduction by the end of 2020. It will start reporting its progress in meeting those targets in 2022. [1] [2]

Environmentalists are more than happy to see McDonald’s taking action against the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals. [1]

In a statement, Lena Brook, interim director of food and agriculture at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), wrote:

“McDonald’s is the first major burger chain to announce a comprehensive antibiotic use reduction policy for all beef sold by its restaurants – and the largest, by far.”

Source: FDA.gov
Source: FDA.gov

According to the NRDC, some 40% of medically-important antibiotics sold in the livestock sector in the U.S. are used in the beef industry. By comparison, just 6% goes to the poultry industry. That, the NRDC says, is why “addressing overuse in beef production is critical to combat drug resistance.”

It’s tougher to remove medically-important antibiotics from livestock than it is to remove them from poultry because cattle live longer than chickens and have more chances to fall ill. [3]

Bob Smith, an Oklahoma-based cattle veterinarian for Veterinary Research and Consulting Services, explained that cattle farmers face unique challenges in reducing antibiotic use while also keeping their animals healthy, as there are few good alternatives to the medicines.

“We will need those medically important antibiotics in meat production for a long, long time. We want to use those wisely.”

But someone has to get the ball rolling, and it might as well be a monstrosity of a company like McDonald’s.

Source: FDA.gov

Keith Kenny, McDonald’s global vice president for sustainability, said in a statement: [2]

“McDonald’s believes antibiotic-resistance is a critical public health issue and we take seriously our unique position to use our scale for good to continue to address this challenge.”

In October, McDonald’s received a failing grade in the Chain Action Report. Produced by the Center for Food Safety (CFS), Consumer Reports (CR), Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), U.S. PIRG Education Fund (USPEF), Friends of the Earth (FOE), and NRDC. The report rated the top 25 fast-food chains’ antibiotic policies.

USPEF, who has been pressuring McDonald’s to phase routine antibiotic use out of its meat supply for more than 3 years, applauded the fast-food chain’s commitment.

Matthew Wellington, the consumer group’s antibiotics program director, remarked:

“The Golden Arches just raised the bar for responsible antibiotic use in meat production. McDonald’s new commitment is a promising step forward that will help preserve antibiotics for the future and that’s something we should all be happy about.”

Source: FDA.gov

As the biggest beef buyer to pledge to reduce antibiotic use in cattle, McDonald’s could set a new benchmark for livestock producers and other fast-food chains alike. [3]

David Wallinga, a senior health adviser for the NRDC, said:

“McDonald’s iconic position and the fact that they’re the largest single global purchaser of beef make it hugely important.”

While McDonald’s is in no way a healthy place to eat, the chain has been making strides in recent years to make their food a bit less … er, toxic? In addition to banning antibiotics in its chicken supply, the company said in 2014 that it would not be sourcing genetically modified (GM) Simplot potatoes, which are engineered to brown slower and bruise less easily than non-GMO potatoes.

Then, in 2015, McDonald’s said it would replace the high-fructose corn syrup in their hamburger buns with regular sugar, and ditch preservatives in its McNuggets, pork sausage patties, omelet-style eggs, and scrambled eggs.

Sources:

[1] NPR

[2] USA Today

[3] Reuters

FDA.gov

McDonald’s Self-Service Screens Contain an Unsavory “Ingredient”

Have you ever used a touchscreen at McDonald’s to order your food? You’re reading an article on Natural Society, so of course not! But if you have, this bit of news may interest you. That touchscreen you ordered from probably has some poop on it, at least according to a recent investigation by MetroEvery single self-service kiosk the news outlet tested was found to be contaminated with some feces.

Perhaps you should start carrying some alcohol hand-sanitizer, eh?

The news site asked researchers at London Metropolitan University to test the touchscreens at 8 McDonald’s restaurants around the U.K., including 6 in London and 2 in Birmingham. Yeah, the tests were done in London, but that doesn’t take away from the possibility touchscreens are equally contaminated here in the U.S.

  • Each kiosk screen contained coliforms, the bacteria found in feces.
  • One screen was found to contain staphylococcus, a bacteria that can cause blood poisoning and toxic shock syndrome (TSS).
  • The same screen containing staphylococcus also harbored Listeria bacteria, which can cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.
Petri dishes of bacteria found in various McDonald’s in London and Birmingham (Picture: Susannah Ireland for metro.co.uk)

You might want to think twice about licking that French fry grease off of your fingers.

Related Read: Could Your Dirty Shower Head Really Cause Lung Infections?

Dr. Paul Matawele, a senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University, said:

“We were all surprised how much gut and fecal bacteria there was on the touchscreen machines. These cause the kind of infections that people pick up in hospitals.”

Matawele and his colleagues were especially troubled to discover the presence of staph on the touchscreens. [2]

Matawele said:

“Seeing staphylococcus on these machines is worrying because it is so contagious. It starts around people’s noses, if they touch their nose with their fingers and then transfer it to the touchscreen someone else will get it, and if they have an open cut which it gets into, then it can be dangerous.”

He said his team was also shocked to find Listeria, which he called “another rare bacterium,” lingering on the screens.

McDonald’s, Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road station (Picture: Susannah Ireland for metro.co.uk)

But Dr. Philip Tierno, a clinical professor of Microbiology and Pathology at NYU School of Medicine, who wasn’t involved in the research, said he was not at all surprised by the findings. [1]

Read: New “Nightmare” Bacteria has Been Popping up Around the U.S.

“We are bathed, as a society, in human feces. Wherever numerous people touch the same surface over time, they deposit their germ passport, which can include bacteria from 3 body places – respiratory, skin, and fecal sources.”

He added:

“This (Metro) report shows that people do not properly pay attention to hand hygiene – especially hand washing. Eighty percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted by direct and indirect contact. Direct like coughing, sneezing, talking, kissing someone; and indirect like touching a dirty fomite (doorknob, phone, computer, elevator button, touchscreen, etc.) and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth or a break in the skin.”

For its part, McDonald’s says that its touchscreens are cleaned frequently throughout the day and that all of their restaurants “provide facilities for customers to wash their hands before eating.” But how many times have you been in a public restroom that lacked hand soap? [2]

Even if you don’t lay a finger on a McDonald’s touchscreen, there’s a good chance you’re still coming into contact with some potentially dangerous bugs, simply because they are all around you. Staph and E. coli have been found in large quantities on phones, keyboards, and tablets. In fact, your smartphone is likely germier than a toilet seat. [3]

Bon appetit.

Source: Metro.co.uk

Sources:

[1] MarketWatch

[2] Newsweek

[3] Business Insider