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article imageMcDonald's, Weight Watchers join forces

By Chris Dade     Mar 4, 2010 in Lifestyle
Campaigners seeking to encourage healthier eating and fight obesity are angry with a move that has seen weight management company Weight Watchers give its official approval to three meals sold by fast-food giant McDonald's.
The partnership in New Zealand involving the two U.S.-based global brands will see three meals from McDonald's - Chicken McNuggets, Filet-O-Fish and Sweet Chilli Seared Chicken Wrap - being sold in packaging bearing the Weight Watchers logo.
Served with a salad and water, or a diet version of a soft drink, all three meals are valued at 6.5 points under the Weight Watchers system. People attempting to lose weight can consume food equivalent to between 18 and 36-40 points each day.
Chris Stirk, Weight Watchers' Director for Australia and New Zealand, commented that the new tie-up with McDonald's reflects:part of our philosophy that you can enjoy life ... while still achieving your weight loss goals
The Huffington Post reports that the Managing Director for McDonald's in New Zealand, who has not been named, described the deal as a "noble cause", adding:We're making the best effort to generate a change in our behavior, to create an awareness in consumers about making healthy choices
Criticism of the partnership includes the charge that McDonald's (reportedly the instigator of the deal when it approached Weight Watchers) is simply attempting to attract more people in to its restaurants where they may be tempted by less healthy options.
Jane Martin, Senior Policy Adviser with the Obesity Policy Coalition in Australia, said the three supposedly more sensible choices are "often ... high in fat and salt. Chicken McNuggets are Chicken McNuggets whether its got Weight Watchers on it or not."
Meanwhile Dr Robyn Toomath of Fight the Obesity Epidemic, "a charitable trust working to stop and reverse the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes in New Zealand", is quoted by TVNZ as saying:McDonald's is simply going to widen its consumer base so people who previously wouldn't go into McDonald's may now feel this is an option.
McDonald's and Weight Watchers may well say it's not a marketing ploy, and they may even desperately wish that people would go in there and choose healthier foods, but the question is - will they do that?
Another campaigner spoke of mothers being able to "feel good" about their Weight Watchers meal while watching their children eating burgers.
According to the Daily Express Weight Watchers will be promoting McDonald's to its clients.
Highlighting the fact that the nutritional value of McDonald's' meals came under intense scrutiny when Morgan Spurlock lived for 30 days on a McDonald's-only diet in the 2004 documentary "Super Size Me", the Daily Express mentions two other initiatives by the fast food giant designed to appeal to customers who wish to eat healthier food.
One initiative was the introduction in the U.K. in 2005 of a Happy Meal that provides diners with a salad, a drink and a weight-checker.
The other initiative, in 2007, involved a payment of $300,000 US to the National Heart Foundation of Australia which allowed McDonald's to carry the organization's "tick of approval" on the packaging used for up to nine of its meal options.
Weight Watchers has apparently declined to confirm if it is receiving payment in return for approving the McDonald's meals, with TVNZ claiming that a payment is indeed being made.
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