McDonald’s Corp., french fries contain more fat and calories than previously thought and have ingredients that could aggravate some allergies, but the company said on Monday the disclosures showed its commitment to providing accurate nutritional data.
“Consumers should have an extremely high level of confidence in our numbers because of the fact that we continually update them… even if it’s not to our advantage,” McDonald’s head of global nutrition, Cathy Kapica, said in an interview.
The fast-food chain, targeted by critics who say its food is fattening and unhealthy, announced late last year it would start printing nutritional information such as calories, fat grams, protein, carbohydrates and sodium on its packaging.
Last week, however, the company said the printed nutritional information about its fries was incorrect and said the correct data could be found on its Web site.
A large serving of fries has 570 calories, 30 grams of fat and 8 grams of trans fat, not the 520 calories, 25 grams of fat and 6 grams of trans fat as previously disclosed.
Health experts consider trans fats particularly dangerous because they raise cholesterol levels and lead to an increased risk of heart disease. The latest U.S. nutrition guidelines recommend limiting intake of trans fats, and McDonald’s has said it is working on reducing trans fats in its cooking oil.
Kapica said a new procedure for determining nutritional content had led to the change. “There is nothing really new here for us because it just shows transparency in action.”
Kapica also said the company’s decision to comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration labeling standards for packaged foods had led to the disclosure about the presence of wheat and milk allergens in the flavoring used to make its fries.
Kapica said McDonald’s move to adopt the FDA standards was voluntary, adding that the company wanted its data to be familiar to those used to reading packaged food labels.
“There is no requirement for a fast-food restaurant to post fast-food nutritional information with the great detail we have up there,” she said.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD