The Guardian reported that
The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald’s and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease.
What’s interesting to me is how we find it abhorrent that McDonald’s may contribute to public health policy, but think it’s fine if Jamie Oliver does.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not particularly keen on businesses like McDonald’s being involved in the way Andrew Lansley is suggesting, but my point is essentially one how people – especially middle-class people – have a knee-jerk, values-based reaction to the news, which supersedes any actual, evidence-based arguments against the involvement of McDonald’s.
To see this, all you need to do is replace the “McDonald’s and KFC” (for example) in the quote above and replace it with “Marks & Spencer and Waitrose”.
Aside from this, there are two further points to make: 1) If improving public health is about subtly manipulating eating behaviour, then who better is there to do it than McDonald’s? 2) If you ignore the places where poorer people eat, then you fundamentally fail to engage with precisely the groups who could make the biggest difference to public health.
Perhaps a Chicken McNudget isn’t such a bad idea.
(Thanks to Dhara for the debate on Twitter today on this. I’ve kept Jamie Oliver in as my original comparator, though Dhara’s points about him actually not being a good comparator are fair. It was Wrighty who came up with the idea of a Chicken McNudget.)