Shareholders and Top Doctors Demand McDonald’s Assess Its Health Impacts
By Sara Deon
Today in Oak Brook, Illinois the world’s most well-recognized purveyor of unhealthy food will hold its annual shareholders’ meeting. Usually a forum to showcase profits made at the expense of the public’s health, food advocates and health professionals will be giving the burger giant’s dog and pony show pause.
For a second straight year, shareholders will vote on a resolution requiring McDonald’s to publicly assess its impacts on the nation’s health. The resulting report would, no doubt, be damning. After all, no fast food corporation sells more high-fat, -salt, -sugar, and -calorie junk food worldwide. No fast food corporation spends more marketing its unhealthy offerings. And perhaps no food corporation has had a greater impact on how we eat or how food is grown.
As Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser puts it: even if you don’t eat McDonald’s-style fast food “you’re eating food produced by the same system.” In other words, McDonald’s, as the nation’s leading purchaser of staples like beef, pork and potatoes, isn’t just putting unhealthy food on plastic trays, it’s shaping the unhealthy methods by which its produced. Factory farms, the overuse of pesticides–you name it–McDonald’s is in some way behind it, including the harm to animals, our drinking water, the environment and our health an externality.
That’s why this first-of-its-kind resolution is so groundbreaking. It would give us a sense of what a Big Mac and fries truly costs. Not only that, it would give shareholders a sense of the financial risk the corporation could ultimately face for continuing to saddle the public with its externalized costs.
As recently documented in AdAge, McDonald’s brand image is out of sync with sales, with McDonald’s consistently ranking near the bottom of its industry in quality perception. Analysts warn if this trend continues the pendulum could well swing for the corporation’s profitability.
Dr. Andrew Bremer, a pediatric endocrinologist and professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, will speak to these points at the meeting. He is part of a growing network of more than 2,500 health professionals that are partnering with my organization, Corporate Accountability International, to compel industry-leader McDonald’s to change course as the corporation’s leadership changes hands. CEO Jim Skinner will be stepping down this month, with COO Don Thompson stepping in.
Corporate Accountability International and partners like Dr. Bremer see no reason to wait for the results of the resolution-sanctioned report to come in for the new CEO to reduce the corporation’s “health footprint.” For one, there is a growing body of research, including a recent Institute of Medicine study, highlighting the importance of limiting junk food marketing to children and adolescents in reducing disease rates. To this end the network has called for McDonald’s to stop marketing junk food to kids, helping compel the American Academy of Pediatrics to take an even more strident stance–an outright ban on junk food marketing to kids.
And most recently, the network called on hospital administrators to give McDonald’s franchises the boot. Cleveland Clinic led the charge–affirming it would not renew McDonald’s contract. A study in the journal Pediatrics has found that citing fast food in health care settings earns brands like McDonald’s an undeserved association with healthfulness. Needless to say, McDonald’s has long built brand loyalty by nutriwashing its image–a practice that needs to stop.
Grassroots pressure is only building. Since the initial introduction of the resolution at last year’s meeting, McDonald’s has made changes to its Happy Meals and competitors have scaled back their marketing to kids.
As these things go, resolutions are not expected to pass over the opposition of the Board. But bringing it to the floor before shareholders will again put the corporation on notice, compelling CEO Thompson to lend a more sympathetic ear to the concerns of health care providers and Civil Eats readers like you.
- Click here to call on hospital administrators to give McDonald’s the boot.
- Click here to call on McDonald’s CEO to stop marketing junk food to kids.
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The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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