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McDonald's vs. obesity
Fast-food chain launches campaign promoting importance of exercise.
April 15, 2004: 12:47 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - McDonald's Corp., the world's largest fast-food company, launched an anti-obesity education campaign Thursday that it said would promote the importance of exercise and balanced food intake.

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Some two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and Big Macs and super-size french fries have drawn criticism and lawsuits for promoting obesity.

In a statement, the company said it is committed to helping solve the U.S. obesity problem. "We want to help adults achieve the right balance between their daily calorie intake and physical activity, and to help children adopt active, balanced lifestyle habits early on," said Michael Roberts, president of McDonald's USA.

As part of the program, McDonald's will offer new menu choices, including an adult "Happy Meal," and a revamped children's "Happy Meal." Low-carbohydrate meals are also part of the rollout.

The company also said it will promote walking as an "attainable -- and effective -- exercise goal," and provide employees with a device to measure the steps they take each day.

The adult "Happy Meal" also includes the step-measuring device along with a salad and bottled water. The new children's "Happy Meal" includes peeled apples with a low-fat caramel dipping sauce and a milk selection.

McDonald's has seen a sales recovery in the United States on the strength of new products, such as its salads, some of which contain more fat than its hamburgers, according to the company's nutrition Web page.

"They're offering consumers choice, which is a positive," said Rachel Brandeis, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "You have to think about what they sell and customers have to know how to order to reduce their caloric intake."

Last year, a judge dismissed a federal lawsuit that alleged the company was responsible for health problems and obesity in children.

McDonald's (MCD: down $0.15 to $26.85, Research, Estimates) is a component of the Dow Jones industrial average.  Top of page

-- Reuters contributed to this story.

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