When the fast food chain McDonald’s decided to add oatmeal to its menu in January 2011, it literally sugar-coated the offering as a “portable, affordable and balanced breakfast solution… to help make it easier and more inviting for our guests to eat more whole grains and fruits”.
Although a single serving of plain oatmeal has one gramme of sugar, one serving (253 grammes) of McDonald’s fruit and maple oatmeal with brown sugar contains 32 grammes of sugar. One serving of the same oatmeal, without brown sugar, contains 18 grammes of sugar, according to the company’s nutrition facts.
“Why would McDonald’s… take a venerable ingredient like oatmeal and turn it into expensive junk food?” lamented New York Times columnist Mark Bittman in February 2011.
McDonald’s oatmeal, he pointed out, “contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and (is) only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin”.
But critics say McDonald’s uncanny ability to turn an inherently healthy food into an unnaturally processed product (the oatmeal itself contains seven ingredients, including “natural flavour”, according to Bittman) is not even the most egregious of the stunts that large food corporations manage to pull.
A Nestle supermarket that set sail in the form of a barge on the Amazon River in Brazil in June 2011 could be one of the more outlandish efforts by the food industry to offer an expanding range of customers a plethora of processed and packaged foods.
Even though processed food is inexpensive, noted Bittman, “the costs aren’t seen at the cash register but in the form of high health care bills and environmental degradation”.
In the United States, food activists who are highly critical of read more