McDonald’s has once again dumbfounded health advocates, this time with a TV ad promoting the new preservative-free McNuggets. The spot’s theme is basically that being a kid today is different from being one in the ’80s. In short: Bikes got sleeker, video-game controllers became cooler-looking, Hamburglar disappeared from McDonald’s walls, and the McNugget lost a lot of not-so-beneficial ingredients.
It’s sappy, but the ad’s strategic close is where critics’ eyes really start to roll. It shows a cute girl eating a new “healthier” McNugget while her dad nods approvingly. “We all want what’s best for our kids,” the voice-over explains.
Dieticians and other health experts are panning that clincher line in particular, calling it everything from “incredibly misleading” to “grossly misleading.” As the executive director of Ottawa’s Centre for Health Science and Law tells CBC, “What they’re advocating is so far removed from good nutrition, it’s almost kind of laughable.”
A spokesperson tells the broadcaster it proves McDonald’s is “on a journey to be better.” But it even struck Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich as a little infuriating when Business Insider asked him about it: “I was offended watching this commercial,” he said. “I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ Sure, you’ve got McNuggets that are preservative-free, but what are you dipping them in? Sauces that are filled with that stuff!”
The new nuggets, which are still fried and salt-laden, have been stripped of things like tert-Butylhydroquinone. But the sauces alone can contain as much as 300 milligrams of sodium (the equivalent of four McNuggets) and are still very much full of preservatives — “not the types of foods that you want in the everyday or even in routine intake for children,” as one critic points out.
The company disagrees, telling CBC that the changes “reflect the cares and concerns of the modern-day guest,” which, honestly, may be exactly right.