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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 18, 2006

McDonald’s ramps up publicity

By John Schmeltzer
Chicago Tribune

McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner yesterday said the chain tries to balance healthful foods and customer desires. "If people asked us for egg whites, I can assure you, we would provide egg whites," he said.

Associated Press library photo

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CHICAGO — Facing yet more criticism over the healthfulness of the food it offers, McDonald's Corp. has responded by intensifying its efforts to sway public opinion through the news media.

"I wouldn't call it a campaign," McDonald's chief executive Jim Skinner, said yesterday in announcing the global promotion. "We need to do a better job telling our story."

The publicity effort comes amid more slings and arrows pointed at the hamburger giant.

Next month, Eric Schlosser, the author of "Fast Food Nation," a harshly critical study of the industry, releases a new co-authored book targeted at teenagers called "Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food." Later this year, a movie based on "Fast Food Nation" is to be released in movie theaters.

Last week, in another example of the heat McDonald's faces, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine said McDonald's sells healthier french fries and chicken strips in Europe than in America.

McDonald's intensified publicity effort involves explaining itself to journalists and trying to influence their perception of what the company sells.

The company already has warned its U.S. franchisees of the upcoming film and book, which according to early reports blame fast-food companies for the rise in childhood obesity.

Earlier this year, McDonald's invited journalists from 40 overseas publications to its Oak Brook, Ill., headquarters for presentations about the company's efforts to provide the same quality foods that they find in grocery stores. The company says it plans to hold a follow-up session later this year for U.S. reporters.

Skinner said the company has to balance efforts to produce more healthful food with the fact that it is a for-profit company.

"There is a distinction between what (customers) eat and what they say they want to eat," he said, explaining that the company provides choices, such as salads, for those who want to eat a healthier diet.

"If people asked us for egg whites, I can assure you we would provide egg whites."