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[Opinion] Fifty Years of McDonald’s

Posted April. 15, 2005 23:35,   


New York teenagers Ashley Pelman and Jazlyn Bradley are in the middle of a lawsuit against McDonald’s. They are blaming McDonald’s hamburgers, which they regularly consumed three to four times a week, for their 120kg weight. “McDonald`s failed to disclose information that Big Macs could lead to health problems, including obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels,” they contend. Four years ago, following the announcement that obesity cost 300,000 American lives annually, George Washington University professor John Banzhaf, widely known for his antismoking lawsuits, declared war on McDonald’s. Of all the places to blame for obesity, could this attack targeting McDonald’s be caused by its “supreme” distinction?

Since McDonald’s first opened its stores in 1955 in Des Plaines, Illinois, it has grown to become the biggest fast-food chain industry, with 31,561 stores in 119 countries worldwide, feeding over 4.8 million customers daily. It sets the standard for the “Big Mac Index,” which is used for comparing the real purchasing power of different countries, and also created the word “McJob,” a term meaning “low-paying, dead-end work.” Innovation is the secret that lies beneath the rise of McDonald’s, now an icon of American values and lifestyles.

McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was a milkshake machines salesman. He visualized the prospect of a unique hamburger store run by the McDonald brothers. A factory-like assembly system was adopted in the making of hamburgers the same way the Ford Motor Company made its cars. McDonald’s hamburgers, which are “assembled bigger, faster, cheaper, and with more convenience,” well reflect the characteristics of Americans. Its most recent promotion campaign focuses on healthy diets, namely salads, with the aid of sports stars encouraging customers to “work out” under the current “well-being” trend.

Jim Skinner, CEO of McDonald’s Corp., asserts the need for personal responsibility in response to the company’s accusation as the main cause of obesity. He points out that each individual bears the responsibility for choosing the right diet to take care of one’s health. This counter attack calls for people who criticize McDonald’s and view it as an icon of imperialism and anti-globalization movements, to question themselves.

Are we innovating enough, in a way that McDonald’s adapts itself to the changes of the world? In other words, will we be able to reach the top by forever blaming others?

Kim Sun-duk, Editorial writer, yuri@donga.com