Painful and Funny Things About McDonald’s

The lovely former town of Woolwich (now part of London) has the distinction of being sort of a reverse Plymouth Rock. The first McDonald’s store in the United Kingdom opened there 42 years ago. The McDonald’s Blue Plaque is also said to be in Woolwich, “behind the delivery gates adjacent to Garrett House,” whatever that is.

The text on this classy piece of folk art reads:

Food and nutrition: To McDonald’s Restaurants for their contribution to child obesity in Britain since 1974.

The U.K. is famous for its anti-McDonald’s activists. As an example, Lee Miles of Hereford became frustrated, cross, and enraged by the obesity-promoting corporate brainwashing techniques aimed at his children and their peers. He fitted out a 47-second McDonald’s commercial (better seen than described) with a new soundtrack expressing what he believes the corporation actually means. The phrase “wrong message” is repeated several times.

Remember how McDonald’s public relations score suffered after someone leaked the employees’ manual? The Daily Mail summed it up like this:

McDonald’s website advises staff NOT to eat fast food

• The same website that told employees to apply for food stamps, pawn their things and find second jobs is at it again
• McResource Line advises employees to not eat deep fried food
• The Golden Arches wants employees to eat salad and vegetables — minus the bacon, cheese and mayonnaise

In one way, it’s hard to see where the problem lies. The corporation gives its workers solid advice, and what could be wrong with that? Employees do have health issues.

One reason may be the ubiquity of corn in the product. UC Berkeley’s Michael Pollan wrote:

If you take a McDonald’s meal, you don’t realize it when you eat it, but you’re eating corn. Beef has been corn-fed. Soda is corn. Even the French fries. Half the calories in the French fries come from the fat they’re fried in, which is liable to be either corn oil or soy oil… Everything on your plate is corn.

But this goes beyond employees. While it is unlikely that any children are employed by the corporation, the kids who are customers are undoubtedly affected. A report from King George’s Medical University indicates that children are getting crazy numbers of kidney stones.

Urology Department head Dr. S.N. Shankhwar told a journalist:

Fast food contains high levels of sodium which affects calcium metabolism in the body, causing a condition called hypercalciurea, which leads to the formation of stones. Aerated drinks also decrease the ph level of urine, which does not allow complete dissolution of waste products generated in the body, leading to crystal formation and strengthening of previously existing crystals.

The catalogue of misery generated by kidney stones is impressive. Grown women compare it to childbirth-level pain. Do kids have to suffer this way? As if that weren’t enough, fast food is also accused of lowering the nation’s intelligence quotient (IQ). A study of almost 12,000 children pointed to “a direct connection between fast food intake and lower marks in school.”

But which way does the arrow of causality point? Or is it all just coincidence?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “McDonald’s is given its own heritage plaque — but it’s not quite what you think,”, 08/12/15
Source: “Dad becomes viral hit after he makes parody video explaining about McDonald’s and child obesity,”, 08/21/15
Source: “McDonald’s website advises staff NOT to eat fast food,”, 12/24/13
Source: “King Corn,”, 08/10/10
Source: “New Study Shows That Children Who Eat More Fast-Food Score Lower Grades,”, 12/23/14
Image by Ian Reed

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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