WASHINGTON - First they began offering salad, then they added fruit. On Wednesday, McDonald's announced it would put something else on its menu to help customers watching their waistlines: calorie counts.
The fast food giant said that starting next week, it will begin listing calorie information at its more than 14,000 restaurants and drive-through windows across the United States.
"At McDonald's, we recognize customers want to know more about the nutrition content of the food and beverages they order," said Jan Fields, president of McDonald's USA.
"As a company that has provided nutrition information for more than 30 years, we are pleased to add to the ways we make nutrition information available to our customers and employees," she said in statement.
McDonald's over the years has come under fire for offering too few healthy menu items at a time when obesity, the number one public health scourge in the United States, afflicts one in three Americans.
The company on Wednesday announced additions to its menu that it said would give consumers more wholesome choices, without mentioning the obesity issue as such.
America's most popular restaurant, McDonald's serves more than 25 million customers every day.
The company said the new menu offerings would include more fruit and vegetables such as blueberries and cucumbers in season, and that it would also add more grilled chicken items.
But the changes coincide with additions to the chain's most calorie-laden fare with menu items such as the Angus Bacon and Cheese hamburger, which serves up a hefty 790 calories.
McDonald's also this year began offering its mammoth, super-sized soft drinks for the same $1 price as its smallest beverages, at a time when sugary beverages have been fingered as a main culprit for everything from America's increasing girth to an epidemic of diabetes.
Nevertheless, food and nutrition experts were encouraged by the decision to post the calorie count of its menu, although some said they suspected they were prompted by an awareness that mandatory guidelines from the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon go into effect making such postings mandatory for most large retail food establishments.
"My guess is that they are doing this because they think they will have to as soon as the FDA rules come out," Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, told AFP.
"I want to see how they do it before breaking into applause," she said.
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