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19/04/02 . Business . BBC Online . UK
McDonald's profits still in decline
Fast food giant McDonald's has reported a further fall in profits over the past trading quarter - its earnings have declined steadily over an eighteen month period.
The company, hit by the global economic slowdown and scares over the safety of beef in overseas markets, has faced further criticism over the effect of its products on the health of consumers.
But McDonald's continues to be ambitious with plans to add more than a thousand restaurants this year to its chain of 30,000 outlets worldwide.
Analyst Chris Lowe of First Tennessee Bank in New York told the BBC's World Business Report McDonald's is responding to customer worries over meat safety. But he said concerns over the company's profits remain.
"Really it is turning away from fast food and they are working on it - they are working on new products and they are optimistic about future quarters but it is worrisome," he said.
But critics of McDonald's are not just on Wall Street. The company has been accused of contributing to the "fattening of America".
Some critics suggest there are hidden economic costs of the McDonald's fast food formula.
Eric Schlosser, an investigative journalist and writer of a recent best-selling book on the fast food industry, supports this theory.
"Fast food is not the only cause of the obesity epidemic but it seems to be linked in a pattern of behaviour that has changed what people look like in America and is increasingly doing the same throughout the world," he said.
Mr Schlosser said obesity is now the second biggest killer in the US - second only to smoking - but the medical cost is actually higher because 61% of American adults are now classed as obese or overweight.
But McDonald's defended its record on health issues in a statement to the BBC.
The company said it had "led the industry in providing comprehensive nutrition information for consumers so that they can make educated choices about the selections they make".
"Dieticians have confirmed that it is possible to eat at McDonald's and easily fit that meal into daily dietary guidelines," it added.
The company claims there are other factors that lead people to become overweight such as less physical activity and the use of computers and video games.
However Mr Schlosser believes fast food companies have to take responsibility for the increase in the number of overweight people.
"In the same way that tobacco companies were responsible for how they were marketing their product, to whom they were marketing their product, where they were marketing it, I think the fast food chains have a similar responsibility," said Mr Schlosser.
McDonald's points out their products represent one eating option in the vast array of options open to diners.