A new 20-minute video from McDonald’s, essentially a long infomercial extolling the benefits of fast food, is making its way through American middle and high schools.
Discovered by Bettina Elias Siegel, a blogger whose school lunch blog “The Lunch Tray” delves into the politics behind school nutrition, “540 Meals” focuses on John Cisna, a high school science teacher who found, during an attempt to discredit Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, that he lost a surprising amount of weight in the process.
During his experiment, Cisna also recruited three students to join his McDonalds-only diet, and subsequently became a paid brand ambassador for McDonald’s. The video, which The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur called “the greatest ad in the history of mankind for McDonald’s,” is just that — an overwhelmingly positive ad that suggests there are benefits to be reaped from eating an exclusively McDonald’s diet.
We should also note that Cisna’s entire “meal plan” was paid for by a franchisee friend, and that he eventually conceded that there were a number of days where it was impossible to eat his self-imposed limit of 2,000 calories without exceeding his Daily Value fat limit.
The issue, then, with showing “540 Meals” to young children, Siegel writes, is that it teaches them that calorie counting is enough when it isn’t. “It’s true that anyone will lose weight on a fast food diet if they consume too few calories to maintain their weight, just as anyone eating only ‘clean’ food will gain weight if they eat too many calories” Siegel says. “But ‘540 Meals’ is hardly a neutral lesson in calorie balancing. Instead, it instills in children as young as age 11 the explicit and potentially harmful message that ‘There’s nothing wrong with fast food. There’s nothing wrong with McDonald’s.’”