In February, McDonald’s and the Heart Foundation announced that everyone’s favourite fast food bogeyman had been admitted into the foundation’s healthy red-tick program for nine new reduced energy, fat and salt meals. One of these, a hamburger, salad with Italian dressing and an orange juice has 61% less kilojoules and 37% less saturated fat than what the Heart Foundation obliquely refers to as a “popular McDonalds medium meal” — hamburger, fries and Coke.

Critics sneered that Maccas would be high-fiving at scoring the nation’s most understood “it’s good for you” mark, seeing the acknowledgement as a bargain antidote to its king-of-junk-food reputation. The reduction in the nasties is mainly achieved by substituting a salad for fries.

The Heart Foundation audits its tick program through SAI Global which conducts unannounced purchases of tick products to ensure they conform to the agreed standards. What’s not audited and what McDonald’s has so far not released, is information about what has happened to sales of its non-tick products since the deal. How many tick-approved meal buyers do have fries with that? How many new and returning customers buy a few tick meals and then move over to the heart-busting fare?

Another clue to McDonald’s thinking can be seen in a current TV ad for its Big Mac veteran. A lean youth walks past a Big Mac poster. In a big steal from Woody Allen’s dramatisation of the pre-bonk scene inside Burt Reynold’s testicles (in Everything You Wanted To Know About S-x (But Were Afraid To Ask) ), instead of humanoid little sperms getting ready to fly the coop, the Big Mac ad shows little men inside our customer mechanically focussing his eyes on the ad, mopping up his gushing stomach and salivary juices, opening his mouth, and wait for it… pulling big strings to cause his big red heart to flutter. We see him fanging into a Big Mac while on the tray along with a drink, is a pack containing what could just be the return of the fries.

As he lifts the burger to his mouth, we cut to an animated heart beating and the words “My Big Mac .. I’m lovin’ it.”

Watch the ad here.

Of course, this repeated heart reference has nothing to do with heart health or the Heart Foundation. It’s all about “loving” Big Macs, silly. McDonald’s would never want punters to confuse its heart-tick products with products people “love” with all their hearts.

The Heart Foundation’s  four-point guide to awarding a tick finishes with “Sign the 12-month contract to ensure they’re committed. Break it — they’re out.” Can this farce possibly be sustained a moment longer?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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