In a move the McDonald’s Corp. hopes will revive consumer interest and spending at its nearly 16,000 U.S. locations, the fast food giant has announced a major overhaul to its menu, including the removal of high-fructose corn syrup from its burger buns and the removal of artificial preservatives from many popular menu items including Chicken McNuggets.
Building on its commitments to remove antibiotics from chicken and to work toward using exclusively cage-free eggs, the latest announcement from McDonald’s will affect 50 percent of the chain’s menu.
The iconic Chicken McNugget will see a cleaner cooking oil, which had traditionally contained an artificial preservative. Similar preservatives will be removed from pork sausage patties and egg products.
“McDonald’s last year returned to its original Egg McMuffin recipe, which calls for butter instead of liquid margarine because many consumers didn’t understand exactly what liquid margarine is,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
“The burger chain also is racing to keep up with rivals who have been quicker to embrace the so-called clean-label movement.” Other chains including Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill have put emphasis on cleaner ingredients. It’s happening in supermarket aisles, too, with major food brands ditching artificial ingredients, and even controversial packaging materials like BPA (bisphenol-A).
There will be other significant changes to the menu as well, McDonald’s indicated, as it’s already begun to use milk and yogurt products from cows that did not receive artificial growth hormones.
“If it matters to our customers, it matters to us,” McDonald’s U.S. President Mike Andres said at the company’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, on Monday.
Whether or not the move is enough to pick up McDonald’s slumping sales is yet to be seen, but it does indicate that change is afoot in the nation’s food system, even though the move comes just days after President Obama signed the controversial GMO labeling bill into law.
The bill will override Vermont’s more stringent labeling requirement for genetically modified foods that went into effect last month. Under the new ruling, states will not be able to enforce their own labeling laws, and manufacturers will not be blatantly required to state the presence of GMOs. They will instead be able to put a QR code or a phone number customers can use to ascertain more information on the ingredients.
In the wake of the new GMO labeling law, consumers have pledged to petition brands who don’t fully disclose the presence of GMOs, while others praised the efforts by companies to increase transparency.
“Consumers have already begun to see GMO labeling disclosures on many familiar food packages as companies prepared to comply with Vermont’s groundbreaking law,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It and Stonyfield Farm. “In the wake of the creation of a national, mandatory labeling system, Campbell’s, Mars and Dannon have already publicly committed to keeping this simple disclosure on their packages as USDA sorts out the rules for implementation of this new law. I have sent a letter to other industry leaders asking them to publicly commit to keeping consumers out of the dark when it comes to GMOs in our food.”