TURIN, Italy — In a public relations move with Supersize irony, McDonald’s rolled out its much-hyped “packaging with nutritional information” on Tuesday at — of all places — the Winter Games.
And with endorsement appearances by — of all people — speedskating gold medalist Dan Jansen and Italian Stefania Belmondo, a cross-country skier who possesses one silver medal and one bronze.
Neither said how often they eat at McDonald’s, or much of anything at all.
At a packed press conference in the company’s fast-food franchise aptly located inside the behemoth media center, McDonald’s officials introduced IOC president Jacques Rogge to extoll the virtues of “sound nutrition” and corporate sponsorship.
The “packaging with nutritional information program” is the burger chain’s latest effort to add healthy-sounding sound bytes to its traditional menu fare. Beginning Tuesday in Turin, and later this month in the United States, food boxes and wrappers will carry icons and numbers (but no written words) showing calories, protein, fat, carbs and salt content.
It helps if you are able to read hieroglyphics.
The symbol for salt is three diagonal dots (to look like the top of a salt shaker), the symbol for protein is three blocks (the “building blocks” of energy), and the symbol for fat is two horizontal lines with vertical bars (Stumped? Think of a tape measure).
Next to each icon is the percentage it constitutes of an average daily diet. McDonald’s has decided an average daily diet is 2,000 calories.
But isn’t that a very high number of calories to be applied universally to men and women, large and small? (So asked an Italian magazine writer.)
Well, a company official acknowledged, the figure actually applies to a young woman who is physically active.
That tidbit appears nowhere on the new wrapping.
So, for example, a plain cheeseburger is 250 calories and constitutes 13 percent of the McDonald daily total. It contains 12 percent of fat at 8 grams; 11 percent of carbohydrates at 31 grams and 26 percent of salt at 1.3 grams.
Perhaps the worst of all news: a grilled chicken Caesar salad with dressing and croutons has more salt (66 percent at 3.3 grams) than a Big Mac. And the same amount of fat as an Egg McMuffin.
“We believe in the quality of our food,” said McDonald’s president Mike Roberts. He never actually said it was good for you.
There also was more than one instance of salty irony in the media blitz.
Turin’s outskirts are home to the Slow Food movement, which formed 20 years ago when incensed Italians protested plans for opening the first franchise — at the base of Rome’s legendary Spanish steps.
But in a country where two-hour lunches are standard, as are long, late dinners with sumptuous courses and flowing wine, the Italians lost their battle.
There are now 330 McDonald’s franchises in Italy, 24 of them in the Piedmont area surrounding Turin, serving 600,000 meals per day.
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