witness statement

name: Jane Brophy, BSc SRD
section: Nutrition
for: The Defence
experience: Nutrition Consultant


Most people involved in health education know that a typical McDonald's meal does not comply with current healthy eating recommendations and that is why their literature states that the two golden rules for healthy eating are "variety" and "moderation" - vague terms which do not help the average person choose a health promoting diet.


Nutrition Consultant, Qualified dietician with State Registration (SRD) , member of the British Dietetic Association and Nutrition Society, Degree in Biochemistry - Leeds University, worked for over five years as a nutritionist giving advice on healthy eating

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I have a knowledge and understanding of the issues in the McDonalds leaflet that relate to diet and health and my comments on this area are set out below. I have only had time to prepare a short outline of some of the evidence because of the short notice given. Also I am currently on maternity leave and have not had the time or resources to make a more detailed case.

In my opinion an average McDonald's meal is high in fat, (particularly saturated fat found mainly in animal products) sugar, and salt (sodium), and is low in fibre and some vitamins which could lead to diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers. The companies own nutritional data demonstrates that the food is too high in fat and according to the current UK Government nutritional guidelines and expert reports from around the world, such as the World Health Organisation's report on "Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases" (1990 Technical Report Series 797).

Dietary Analysis

Meal combination 1 - Big Mac, Large French Fries, Apple Pie and a Regular Cola

Energy 1283 kcalories
Fat 64.4 grams (579.6 kcal or 45% Fat)
Sodium 1488 m/grams (mg)

Meal combination 2 - Hamburger, Regular French Fries and Milk

Energy 707 kcalories
Fat 35.1 grains (315.9 kcal or 45% Fat)

(To obtain the amount of kcals from grams of fat - multiply grams times nine as 1 gram fat = 9 kcal)

Dietary Recommendations

The UK Government recommends a diet containing a maximum of 35% of energy as fat which is much lower than a typical McDonalds meal of 45% fat (some McDonalds meals contain 47% fat - for example Meal Combination 5).

The UK governments fat recommendations are moderate compared to other international reports, such as the World Health Organisation, which recommends 15 - 30% of energy as fat.

The NACNE Report which was the guideline used by most health professionals at the time that McDonalds published the McDonald's Food: The Facts booklet recommended 30% of energy as fat.

The McDonalds data does not specify amounts of saturated fat, which is generally high in animal products such as meat burgers. Saturated fat is related to high cholesterol levels which are directly related to the incidence of heart disease.

The sodium content of McDonald's Meal combination 1 (1,488 mg) is close to the maximum recommended by the Government of 1,600 mg and is above that recommended for a 10 year old child of 1,200 mg. Consumption of a cheese sandwich in addition to a McDonalds meal would easily push the sodium content above the adult daily recommended amount.

Similar calculations can be made which show that a typical McDonalds meal is also lacking in fibre, fresh fruit and vegetables and certain vitamins.

The World Health Organisation (1990) recommends a fresh fruit and vegetables consumption of 400 gram/day far above the amount found in a McDonalds meal.


A poor diet that is low in fibre, fresh fruit and vegetables and high in fat, and animal products has been scientifically linked with some cancers, particularly bowel cancer and heart disease.

It has been estimated that 30-70% of all cancers are linked to diet and certain cancers, such as bowel, breast and prostate are clearly diet related by cancer expert Professor Doll (1990 Symposium on diet and cancer, published by the Nutrition Society vol.49 page 119-31). The World Cancer Research Fund's dietary advice to minimise cancer risk is to reduce intake of dietary fat and increase consumption of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains.

The incidence of bowel cancer has been strongly linked to meat consumption. Willett (1990) published in the New England Journal of Medicine (vol 323 page 937-41) carried out a study of over 88,000 women aged 34 to 59 years. Women eating red meat daily ran over twice the risk of developing bowel cancer than women eating red meat less than once a month.

As a result of the numerous studies published demonstrating the links between diet and health many bodies promoting healthier eating have published guidelines aimed at the public giving guidelines on what to eat. The consensus of opinion for a healthier diet is to reduce total fat consumption, particularly saturated fat, reduce sugar and salt and increase consumption of dietary fibre and fresh fruit and vegetables.

A leaflet published by the Cancer Education Co-ordinating Group, The Avoiding Cancer - The European Code advises in one of the codes to reduce cancer to "cut down on fatty foods", the leaflet also states that "in countries that eat a lot of meat, butter and other dairy products there is higher risk of breast and bowel cancer as well as other diseases like coronary heart disease. A sensible diet can reduce this risk. The leaflet also states that foods containing fibre may also protect against cancer of the bowel.

The Health Education Authority in the UK publishes literature and gives advice on a healthier lifestyle. The Guide to Healthy Eating published by the Health Education Authority states that, "fibre rich foods are very important for good health, they help prevent constipation, they may protect against bowel problems including cancer of the bowel which is one of the most common cancers in Britain." The pamphlet also states that "there are two problems related to eating too much fat, firstly fat is loaded with calories and too many calories leads to overweight and obesity, secondly too much saturated fat is linked with a higher risk of heart disease." The pamphlet goes on to say "that sugar promotes tooth decay and obesity... adding sugar to foods makes it easier for us to eat too much - partly because our taste buds have been trained to crave for sugary foods", in addition it states that "for some people eating too much salt can lead to high blood pressure which in turn causes heart disease and strokes".

The Governments Foodsense leaflet, published by MAFF, states that "The amount of salt most of us eat can encourage high blood pressure. This increases the risk of heart and kidney disease or strokes."

Most people involved in health education know that a typical McDonald's meal does not comply with current healthy eating recommendations and that is why their literature states that the two golden rules for healthy eating are "variety" and "moderation" - vague terms which do not help the average person choose a health promoting diet.

date signed: July 25, 1993
status: ?
references: Not applicable/ available
exhibits: Not applicable/ available

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