McDonald’s McNuggets Fuel Olympians? Advocacy Groups Say False

Source: Bryan Allison / Flickr

What do Olympic athletes eat before their big events? Surely not McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest says, meaning that athletes should not abuse their position and team up with sponsors to endorse messages they do not believe in.

It’s a quip against McDonald’s well-known Olympics commercial that features the tagline “The greatest victories are celebrated with a bite.” As one athlete happily bites his gold metal, another bites into a McNugget, and the message isn’t lost on anyone. McNuggets could be your one-way ticket to becoming an Olympic-caliber athlete.

Unsurprisingly, many consumer advocacy group have taken issue with the commercial, which is played to a soundtrack of inspirational music and shows athletes receiving their metals before one bites into a McNugget. The Lexington Herald-Leader highlighted the case of one group, the aforementioned Center for Science in the Public Interest, whose director, Jeff Cronin, said last week, “Nothing could be less conducive to physical fitness and athletic performance than a steady diet of burgers, McNuggets, fries, and sugary sodas.”

The commercial is meant to market McDonald’s deal of 20 McNuggets for $5, but the fact that the popular nuggets have 940 calories, 59 grams of fat, and 75 percent of the recommended daily intake of sodium has many saying that the company is practicing false advertising.

McDonald’s has partnered with the Winter Olympics since 1968, and Leslie Truelove, director of marketing for McDonald’s USA, maintained last week that the company stands behind its marketing, explaining to the Lexington Herald-Leader that the chain is proud to sponsor the games. According to the publication, she said McDonald’s McNuggets are “perfect to eat with friends while watching the Winter Olympics,” but consumer advocates disagree and charge that the commercial’s message says something entirely different.

Namely, that a McDonald’s diet is exactly what Olympic athletes thrive on. Anita Courtney, head of the Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition said, said to the Lexington Herald-Leader: “I found the McDonald’s chicken McNugget commercial laughable. Just for the record, winning an Olympic gold medal has nothing in common with eating a chicken McNugget.”

She added: “In fact, the two are probably mutually exclusive. You can bet that elite Olympic athletes would never touch the fried, compressed chicken pieces and parts.”

McDonald’s has long faced criticism from consumer groups about its fatty food and reported contribution to childhood obesity. The latest charges just add fuel to the anti-McDonald’s fire. Last summer, groups even argued that Ronald McDonald had a hand in promoting the unhealthy food that children should beg their parents for. Now, the chain is coming under the spotlight again for how it advertises to its consumers, especially young ones. Cronin argued last week, pre the Lexington Herald-Leader, that ”Olympics athletes should not abuse their position by endorsing unhealthy foods and drinks to their young fans.”

Still, despite the criticism, McDonald’s ad will continue to play, and Olympians will likely continue to team up with the chain. Many athletes see no harm in endorsing some of their guilty pleasures, even though many dietitians argue that they know where to draw the line while young consumers don’t.

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