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Thursday 15 October 2015

McDonald’s Pulls “540 Meals” From Internet* Under Growing Barrage of Media Criticism

On Monday, The Lunch Tray broke an exclusive story regarding a new and disturbing “nutrition education” documentary created by McDonald’s for use in schools, 540 Meals: Choices Make the Difference. The film features McDonald’s paid brand ambassador John Cisna, an Iowa science teacher who lost weight eating McDonald’s for 90 days.

As I explained in detail in Monday’s post, 540 Meals is little more than an infomercial for McDonald’s, replete with quotes like the one to the left and other similar quotes. It also contains an express instruction to children that they should ignore any negative information about fast food or McDonald’s that they may encounter on the Internet.

540 Meals is being promoted to schools by local McDonald’s franchisees and paid McDonald’s “Nutrition Consultants” as suitable for showing to high school and middle school students, the latter of whom may be as young as eleven years old.

As I also reported on Monday, McDonald’s PR firm for the 540 Meals initiative, as well as two high level McDonald’s media relations executives, refused to speak with me when I sought more information about this program; repeated emails and phone messages to all three sources were never returned. It’s also noteworthy that there’s never been any mention of the 540 Meals program or John Cisna anywhere on McDonald’s USA’s corporate website, nor did the company issue its own press release when it launched this in-school marketing program earlier this year.

ut if corporations still believe in today’s Internet age – against all evidence to the contrary – that they can carry out such initiatives in obscurity, this week’s developments prove otherwise.

While McDonald’s may have stonewalled one lone blogger, clearly it will soon have to answer press inquiries about 540 Meals. Here’s a current list of the media outlets that have already picked up Monday’s Lunch Tray post:

Civil Eats (cross-post of TLT post): “‘540 Meals:’ A McDonald’s Infomercial Coming to a School Near You

Business Insider: “A Teacher Who Lost 56 Pounds Eating Only McDonald’s Is Starring in a Documentary to Show Kids About ‘Healthy’ Eating”

Mother Jones: “McDonald’s Spams Kids With Infomercial on the Virtues of Fast Food

Gawker: “McDonald’s, Still the Absolute Worst, Now Brainwashing Children

SF Gate: “McDonald’s Faux Documentary Is the Worst Thing You’ll Watch All Day

Take Part (cross-posted on Yahoo! News): “McDonald’s Wants to Teach Kids That It’s Healthy to Eat Fast Food

Eater: “McDonald’s Turns Teacher’s Weight Loss Story Into Propaganda Film To Show in Schools

Faced with this growing barrage of critical media attention, McDonald’s has quietly pulled the only available online link the link to the full-length, 20-minute film featured in my post, and later shared by media outlets.* I had found this link by tracking down the online portfolio of540 Meals filmmaker, Brandon Carter, but now when you visit the link provided in Monday’s post, you see this:

And if you go directly to Carter’s portfolio and click on the thumbnail for 540 Meals, you see this:
So here’s the big question on my mind today: Why is McDonald’s so afraid to let interested adults watch the film it very much wants to show to impressionable school children?
* Correction 10/14/15 9:30 am CST: This post has been updated to clarify that McDonald’s has pulled the link to the film contained in my post, the same link subsequently picked up by news outlets this week. I’ve since been told that you can still find the full-length film online on McDonald’s YouTube channel. However, when I search “540 Meals” on YouTube, this link does not appear, nor does it appear on the McDonald’s channel’s home page or video page.

I’m in possession of a DVD of 540 Meals but fear that McDonald’s will pursue me on copyright grounds if I upload the film.

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