Happy Meals - How Do You Like Them Apples?

“Happy Meals aren’t making kids so happy anymore,” said my 7 year old daughter. As an adult you might ask, “Why is that?”

“Happy Meals aren’t making kids so happy anymore,” said my 7 year old daughter.  As an adult you might ask, “Why is that?”

If you purchased a Happy Meal sometime in 2012 (and maybe reaching back as far as the end of 2011) – you’ll notice that instead of all fries, you will get half fries and half apples – unless you specify you want all of one or the other.   The latter part – that there is an option to order either all fries or all apples is something that I didn’t know until now.  My daughter will be taking McDonald’s up on that unadvertised alternative from now on.  Let me explain.

You would normally think that a “change” to make a fast food meal healthier would seem like a good one.  In theory, yes.  On paper, yes.  But in your tummy and on your taste buds– no.  McDonald’s is known for “junk food” basically.  It didn’t serve over a billion people making salads or serving apple slices.  In my world, fast food is something my daughter and I indulge on occasionally.  It’s a treat.  We don’t have it every day.  We don’t even eat it once a week.  But when we do eat it, we want it to taste good.  We aren’t worrying about salt, fat, carbs, and the like when we want a salty French fry or a juicy cheese burger.  This is McDonald’s – not home of the Weight Watchers meetings.

I know many will say that Americans have lost all self-control when it comes to eating.  Not true.  Some people may over-indulge, but I still believe that a majority of people are capable of saying when enough is enough.  And for those that want a larger portion of something – this is America – let (food) freedom ring!  There are many other factors that contribute to the overall deterioration of the health of Americans, and it’s not just McDonald's.  Stress and lack of exercise for one assist with encouraging ailments, and you don’t see the government or companies legislating shorter work days, massages on the job, extending paid vacation time, or encouraging longer lunch breaks so an employee has time to take a long walk mid-day. 

However, I digress.  The bottom line is, my daughter likes her fries.  I have never met a person who doesn’t like the original McDonald’s fries.  The first time she got a revised Happy Meal she was disappointed.  She remarked that the portion of fries was too small!  As the trooper she is, she gave the pre-packaged apples a try.  Upon tasting a bite she said “They’re gross!”  I tried one myself and will confirm why she’s right.  (Meanwhile, she mooched fries off of me – so what was the point McDonald’s?  The apples promptly hit the trash and my child got her – I mean my - fries and ate them too.)

First, these apples must have been picked weeks prior to making it to your Happy Meal box.  They have to be shipped, sliced, packaged, and sprinkled with  EDTA, to preserve “freshness.”  What’s EDTA you ask?  EDTA is Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid and it is used as a preservative to retain color in foods like apples which brown quickly.

Hey, lemon juice does the same thing, but do you think Ready Pac (the company that packages apples for McDonald’s) would use real lemon juice, a natural and healthy alternative to prevent the sliced apples from turning brown? Or course not! Chemicals are cheaper and are the way of today!  Who cares that EDTA may irritate the skin or cause skin rash and even asthma.  

It doesn’t matter that it’s on the FDA's list of food additives to be studied for toxicity, is an environmental pollutant, and is used to dissolve limescale!  (The FDA wants to study EDTA further to see if it serves up a side of birth defects, cancer or other reproductive problems.  “Nice,” I say with sarcasm.  Meanwhile, the government says go ahead and be the experimental population for testing out this theory America!)

EDTA , when applied to fruits like apples, makes them taste like a remnant of themselves.  It’s like eating cardboard dipped in stale applesauce.  If that didn’t deter you from eating those apples, the recent recall by Ready Pac because some of those apples had listeria contamination would do it.

If McDonald’s is going to serve up apples with their meals, I suggest they stick with nature’s perfect product and don’t alter them.  I’d rather have an unsliced apple tossed in my daughter’s Happy Meal that hasn’t been treated with chemicals.  And if they like the “slice is nice” approach, so the apples can be served as a finger food, well, I’m sure there’s an apple slicer that they can purchase for their chain stores, and they can market the idea of “Freshly Sliced Apples” with ease.  My guess is that the lemon farmers would be happy to pick up a McDonald’s contract and supply them with fresh lemon juice for squeezing over their apples, too, if they’re that worried about them turning a tinge brown.  And if this approach raises the cost of Happy Meals by a dollar or so, so be it.  I’d rather pay more for a quality product than be served something sub-par, tasteless, and even controversial.  Healthy, schmealthy.  I don’t buy it – literally.

This blog post was originally published on the author's website:  TheLadyinRedBlog.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Harold Levin September 01, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Leave it to McDonald's to find a way to serve unhealthy apples! I agree with you Laura, no one should be going there to find healthy food options. If healthy is what one wants, they need to go elsewhere.
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