The food of champions

England's Football Association embodies the nation's most popular sport. To promote fitness and good health, it provides these splendid awards to schools that offer adequate soccer programs. I'd ask if you could spot the mistake, but I think this may be one of those "honor the error as a hidden intention" dealies—a tragic fact echoed by star player Rio Ferdinand's endorsement deal with a tobacco company. [via Ben Goldacre and Huw G]

UPDATE: Its website is slathered with the secret sauce:

Become a McDonald's Coach today! In other news, the UK tops the European Union's obesity and illness league table.


    1.  “I see you are searching for ‘the truth’.  Can I offer you some today?  Only $19.99 per insight!”

    1. Oh come on, really? I’d like to think BB readers can find their way out of a football helmet.

      (I’m not sure everyone will get that, there’s at least one kind of football in the world where helmets are not required…oh dear.)

        1.  I’ve had it explained to me before, and you gotta admit it’s kind of confusing. Without looking it up, I’m going to say: England is simply its own county, no more no less. Great Britain is the island, so England, Scotland, and Wales. The UK is both islands taken together. The Commonwealth is all the scattered land masses around the world with British sovereignty. How’d I do?

          1. Er, not very well. The United Kingdom is the country, Great Britain is the main landmass. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are *roughly* analogous to the States of the USA.

            Have a Venn diagram:


          2. You forgot Cornwall as one of the four nations of Britain.  There are also the Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Manx.  And the British Overseas Territories like Gibraltar.  These all fall under UK sovereignty.

            The UK does not have sovereignty over the Commonwealth of Nations (54 countries) although some (16, called Commonwealth Realms) of those nations have E2R as head of state.

    2. Yeah. Here in Scotland the aspiring young footballers eat deep-fried pizza and drink Irn Bru. (If you don’t know, you probably don’t want to…) None of that McDonald’s health food crap. They burgers hae actual fuckin *salad* oan them!

      1. Here in Denmark we get pizza with doner kebab on it. As a Scots exile I really should suggest they try deep-frying it.

  1. The blind hate for McDs is really sad, the only person to blame for being fat and unhealthy is the consumer.  On top of that, McDs is easily one of the better fast food restaurants and offer a wide variety of food both considered good and bad.

    Also, outside the US, most McDonalds use local grade A beef for their products and not the swill Americans consider meat, so that McDonalds UK sponsoring good, healthy eating isn’t so far fetched.  Maybe you should look past your preconceptions and misinformation and get over the hate for fast food.

    1. “the only person to blame for being fat and unhealthy is the consumer”

      Yeah, you missed the point: that position of yours starts getting pretty damn flimsy when purveyors of calorie-dense, engineered-to-be-moreish food start deliberately associating themselves in consumers’ minds with health, by, say… aggressively sponsoring sports.

      “The consumer” of junk food is pretty much uniformly uninformed, apathetic, or willfully ignorant of the adverse effects of eating it; the vendor, however, is *very* much aware of those effects. Given the knowledge imbalance, the vendor must bear some of the responsibility, or at least not deliberately further mislead the consumer.

      1. the vendor, however, is *very* much aware of those effects.

        The vendor is also part of a long chain of corporate beneficiaries of subsidies that pay rich people to produce unhealthy, high-profit crops.

    2. As a vegetarian, I can’t confirm your claims. I will, however, point to the pink gloop chicken mcnuggets, sinister reformed fish and ham products, and semi-dairy milkshakes. I will point to the lawsuit that American Hindus brought (and won) for lying about ingredients. 

      And let’s never forget McLibel, ‘Coca Cola is healthy because it contains water, and water is part of a balanced diet’.

      The FA seem to have FA integrity.

    3. Glad to see their marketing is working on someone!

      Incudently the grade of the beef doesn’t change the appropriateness if burger, chips and a soft drink being advertised in the context of health and fitness.

      Also consumers don’t make decisions, advertisers do. To ignore thus fact is to ignore the vast majority of behavioural psychology.

      [Gah, update disqus already bb!! Sick of not being able to edit properly on ios]

    4. I’m sorry but there’s fast food and there’s fast food. A stone baked pizza,  thai street food, mexican empanadas, all fast. all natural ingredients. 

      McDonalds and their ilk, fast food sure, but made with un-natural levels industrial grade corn syrup, pink slime and loaded with salt. Not natural, industrial and positively bad for you. 
      All of this is done in the most cynical way, high levels of sugar and salt trick your mind into believing… “Yummy, this is great”, it’s addictive and countries like the USA and UK whose eating habits have been hijacked by these corporates are paying the price with an epidemic of obesity.and as for their ‘healthy’ offerings. No again not really, salads whose positive benefits are cancelled out by dressings that are far from healthy.McDonalds and their like really are barely classifiable as food. I wouldn’t feed it to my dog.

      1. After reading the article the other day about school food in Scotland I’m convinced that my dog has a better diet than most children in this country. Seriously.

        1. I used to feel the same about my dog’s diet too, but I’ve come to realise that roughly 20% of his food intake is from turds that he finds.  That kind of evens the score.

          1. Admittedly when factoring in the poo, sticks, seaweed and miscellany my dog eats, it probably does get a little closer to the average child’s nutritional intake.

    5. So true. I had a salty Big Mac and box of cold fries last night, along with the equivalent of two cans of pop. Once the tremors and sweats stopped I was able to run a triathlon with all that glucose and electrolytes. The steroids in the beef probably help too.

      I’ve actually never seen anyone order salad at McDs. And I’m going to stop talking now before it’s revealed that I apparently eat there way too often, considering I hate the place.

      1. I’ve been avoiding fast food since high school, and have eaten at McDonald’s I think just once since then, and Burger King probably once as well. 

        I do make exceptions for higher-quality places like Chipotle and In-n-Out (I was addicted to both when I first moved to California, to the detriment of my waistline and my gastro-intestinal health). 

        On the rare occasions that I eat at McDonald’s-like places (it’s sometimes the only thing reasonably available when traveling) I get tremors and sweats etc. too. I attribute this to my body just not being used to it, and shiver at the thought of what must be going on in one’s body if they are used to it.

        My question to you is… if you eat it enough to be embarrassed by how often you go, but not enough to get past the tremors and sweats, well, how does that work? Why do you keep going? Toronto’s a pretty good cheap-food city, in my outsider’s experience :)

        1. a) I’m a former fast-food addict so I sometimes see cheap burgers and fries and an internal switch flips and I go in and eat before realizing where I am. Half the time I walk out after standing in line for a bit, when it dawns on me what I’m about to eat.

          b) I stay up late, sometimes it’s the only thing open.

          c) Sometimes I get baked and ignore all dietary restrictions.

          I really don’t eat there too much – maybe a couple times a month. Much prefer the cheap Vietnamese places. ;-)

  2. (edit – @Scazza) You’re right, ultimately the responsibility eating a healthy diet sits with the person eating it (or their parents).   The issue here though is by associating itself closely with sports  and healthy activities, McDonalds is attempting to influence those decisions by labelling itself as a healthy choice.
    Now, even if we accept your premise that McDonalds offers a choice of both “good and bad” food, its sponsoring and advertising makes no distinction.  This isn’t sponsored by “McDonalds fruit bags”.  This is sponsored by McDonalds.  Who are most famous for, and synonymous with, burgers.  It’s not blind hate, it’s despair at what is at best grimly ironic.
    Finally McDonalds’ take on “healthy” seems fluid, as the recent fuss about its “healthy” fizzy drink for kids attests.  (Which contained more sugar than the regular fizzy drinks.)  (Telegraph article used purely because it contains a reference to “Fast Foo” which I like to imagine is a kung fu movie set in a burger joint.)

  3. We know from the MacLibel trial that MacDonalds UK is far from perfect, and we know from SuperSize Me that it can be unhealthy when eaten in significant amounts. 

    But it’s not like cigarettes, and part of the fix for solving obesity is getting everyone to burn more calories. In moderation (once per month according to the Docs on SuperSize Me), it’s ok to eat MacDonalds. If we can get everyone to buy into doing a lot more more exercise/sport and eating junk food only once per month, then it would be ok. If it ends up with kids eating even more junk, then obviously not.  

    I think the Ronald MacDonald clown is much more pernicious.

    1. And if we can convince every smoker on the planet that they should only smoke one cigarette a week and take up jogging on weekends I’m sure they’ll be much healthier too.

        1. Itsumishi might not have been, but sure, I’ll carry that placard. If I may be more specific, though:

          I hold that, for any given quantity of tobacco smoking, it is possible to do an equivalent amount of harm to yourself by eating enough McD’s food. Furthermore, I would hypothesise that the difficulty of doing equivalent harm is in the same order of magnitude either way.

        2. No, that’s clearly not what I said. I was simply pointing out the absurdity of your argument, which I’ll paraphrase; McDonald’s is OK, because providing people only eat it once a month it won’t harm anyone, especially if they also do lots of exercise. That exact argument could be applied to anything, providing you adjust your variables. 

          However I only really see one real difference between McDonalds style fast-food and smoking. There is no negative health consequences of people in the vicinity of fast food eaters. Apart from that, the consequences are much the same: they’re both addictive; they’re both bad for health, leading to huge numbers of deaths and illness epidemics, which leads to a huge drain on health funds; they both smell bad; and they both exploit the  people in order to make a select few very rich.

          We live in a time when more people die every year from obesity or overweight related health concerns than from complications of being under-weight or starving. In the same world, people are frequently both obese and suffering malnutrition. People have forgotten what food is.

          1. There is no negative health consequences of people in the vicinity of fast food eaters

            Lots of litter; drives smaller, possibly healthier restaurants out; annoys parents of fast-food addicted children who demand a McSlurry every time they go out, plus the ball pool is probably unsanitary.

            Plus safety issues caused by a proliferation of teenagers and living near an unauthorized and understaffed homeless shelter. Losing sleep due to drunks screaming for burgers, Burgers! BURGERS!!! at 3:55 a.m. (sorry that was me).

          2.  Adding on to joeposts list, the normalising effect that widespread obesity can have on one’s own perception of health can be incredibly damaging. Try being slightly overweight in the UK or the US, which feels normal, and then try it in Japan, where you feel gargantuan.

            If you extrapolate that across society as a whole, if everyone around you is overweight from eating too much crap, it’s far more difficult to realistically assess your own weight problem. If you’re used to seeing people who are so fat they need to use golf carts to get around, a bit of a beer belly doesn’t seem so bad, and the motivation to get rid of it disappears.

  4. hmmm, No McDonalds is to blame, it’s not just about the culpability of the consumer. In fact corporations like McDonalds and CocalCola have a great responsibility. One they have chosen to ignore in the name of profits whilst conveniently addicting their consumer base to the poisonous sludge they churn out.

    Watch this and then tell me if this crap that passes for food is “OK” if consumed with large doses of exercise.

  5. McDonalds is the official sponsor of the UEFA, too, which means they are making a killing feeding fans during the championships right now. They’re the only ones allowed to sell food in the fanzones.

    They also sponsor the kids that walk the teams out onto the field. I never understood how a company selling food that no serious sportsperson would ever consider a valid addition to their diet could be the main sponsor of a sport that requires such care for one’s health. Have you ever seen a fat soccer player?

    The mind boggles. Of course, UEFA’s ‘respect’ motto is also sponsored by Adidas, the company that shows respect by not paying its workers’ fees, so I guess it’s all one big joke.

  6. McDonalds is not stupid and they have changed their menu quite dramatically over the recent years. Their local involvement in many European countries as well as the Ronald McDonald house in the US is very well known.
    Whether they changed because of existing and coming outside pressure or because of innate goodness is almost irrelevant for a corporation that size.
    I don’t understand the hate and the dichotomy that seems to be apparent for the poster of this pic is all but lost to me. And I don’t even enjoy going to a McDonalds. The last time I went was on a road trip with two young children who don’t know about fast food. We actually got Happy Meals with salad and apples, go figure.
    Whatever you may believe, I’m not a shill nor even a happy customer. I just hate that any local Bratwurstbude (Germany), curry shop (UK), Chinese food (US) can get away with menus that are dramatically worse  and if those places had as many restaurant locations as McDonalds they would be run out of town. Trust me, no apples or salad with my Currywurst.

  7. Aside from whether or not MacDonalds food can be considered healthy, something that grinds my gears is that schools must resort to corporate sponsorship to ensure the equipment and resources are there to pursue an active lifestyle. Like the library in MI, encouraging young people to be active is just something we should support through our taxes.

    1. Are girlscout cookies, selling magazines, and auctions considered corporate sponsorship?
      They all turn the US school system into a financing mess and students into little begging drones to finance something that should be financed by the public and hidden from individual donors.

      Not sure that a youth soccer club falls into the same category.

  8. Man, these McDonald’s sport award thingies have been around for ages. My gymnastics coaches used to give them out to as certificates to hard-working gymnasts – after they’d torn off the free $2 coupon for McDonalds (or however much it was), which is kind of hilariously typical.

    Thing is, as young as we were, and even in the 90s, we knew McDonalds was something you only had as a treat. I don’t think kids are really stupid enough to start eating it every day because it sponsored their match.

    1. “I don’t think kids are really stupid enough to start eating it every day because it sponsored their match.”

      No, but they (or the spectators) will eat it more often because it sponsored their match. That’s the point of sponsorships; if it didn’t work that way, McD’s wouldn’t bother.

      1. Sad but true. The local school board tried instituting a “healthy cafeteria” food policy and now school cafeterias are closing because kids just leave and eat at whatever cheap, horrible fast food place is next door. It is hard to avoid, especially if you grow up eating it every day at lunch.

        1. This is the horrible situation. We’ve had similar drives here in the UK. Really it should be treated as addiction.

          Think education is an important part to play here, think a lot of this stems from a total lack of education. It never ceases to amaze me what people will turn their noses up at when it comes to food. Yet gobbling this crap down, because it is loaded with stuff that makes you believe it’s tasty is considered the norm.

          Cooking it for yourself although it can be time consuming (although never as much as people think) is healthy, enjoyable and can really broaden your horizons.

          To be honest there is no real place in the world for this type of fast food. Or there ought not to be.

        2. I hope they continue their efforts in realization of long-term success.

          It has taken 35+ years to bring tobacco to heel in 1st world places with most everyplace but possibly the US seeing huge dividends in health & societal cost.

          If it isn’t a closed campus I would only attempt to educate the HS students myself. 

          The place to really put the effort is in the school cafeteria’s at pre-school, elementary & junior high, which are also usually closed campus. Many pre-schools & elementary schools also provide breakfast to under-privileged.

          After all, it isn’t a matter of tastes, it is a matter of conditioning. The taste argument kids give is a lot of hooey. Real food tastes better in a healthy body.

        3. When I was a lad, before air and gravity, you weren’t allowed to wander away from the school grounds. Who thought that it was a good idea to let students just go on a ramble?

  9. Oops, changed identity there for a minute. It’s me again with the sarky comment about the FA and England.

  10. 1. *English* FA, not British.
    2. London 2012 is also sponsored by McDonald’s, as well as Coca-cola and Cadbury (amongst others)

  11. I don’t understand why McDonald’s should be excoriated for promoting healthy sport, and I don’t understand why a group committed to fitness and sport should be chastised for accepting monetary donations from food pushers.

    I mean, I get the ironic aspects, and can chuckle at them, but I don’t get the anger and impotent desire to interfere with such things that I see in some of y’all’s posts.

    I once had a buddy who managed money for a whole lot of venture capitalists.  He used to direct funds from the Bush/Baker/binLaden zaibatsu into the things he wanted to sponsor that were most likely to fail, and money from organizations like McDonalds into things that were likely to remediate some of the harm done by them.  I always admired this behavior, but after he lost a billion or so for Carlyle they stopped using his services.

    1. Because this would be like Tobacco companies sponsoring hospital wards, manufacturers of land mines sponsoring prosthetic limbs… 

      Yes great if you can turn money earned via what some would call dubious practises into positives but then you get conflict of interests, as far as I can see.

      1. I think you’re miscategorizing the conflict of interests – what you’re talking about is a conflict between those people who wish to punish industries they find offensive, and those people who wish to help other humans.

        The first group wants to stop their enemies from doing something good (or at least to complain about it, negating the PR incentive to some extent).  Using your example, they either don’t consider or don’t have a problem with the idea that a hospital might not get a new ward, or an amputee might not get a prosthetic limb, if “dirty money” can’t be used.

        The second group is not punishment oriented, is not willing to sacrifice the needy on an altar of ideology, and is willing to convert money from any source into something helpful and good.  I know which side I’m on in such conflicts – the former group is too dictatorial for my tastes.

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