Will I eat a big mac again?

Avid Kipp reader and customer experience strategist Arti Gupta shares her thoughts after visiting a McDonald’s kitchen in Dubai.

What would you expect the quality of food to be when the founder of a fastfood restaurant says he is in real estate business instead of food and hamburgers, and the focus is to get the residual income from the franchises?

Yes, this is what Ray Kroc (founder of McDonaldʼs Corporation) replied when someone asked him, “What business are you in?”

And to add to our concerns, the internet is full of videos on how the fries at McDonald’s have something in them that even after being months old they look as if they were just bought yesterday and how the burgers start decaying only after days. Seeing all this, I stopped eating McDonaldʼs food almost a year back.

We all know that eating too much of high-fat fries and burgers is not good for the health. This point has been aptly shown in a documentary film “Super Size Me” by Morgan Spurlock. Spurlock went on a McDonaldʼs diet for 30 days and this film documents the dietʼs effect on his physical and psychological well-being. He dined at McDonaldʼs restaurants three times a day and gained 11.1 kgs, a 13 percent body mass increase, a cholesterol level of 230 apart from mood swings and sexual dysfunction.

The latest addition to the anti-McDonald’s cavalcade is a video of lettuce being washed in washing machine at a joint in Saudi Arabia, which was Kipp covered and was promptly addressed by the McDonald’s team as a fraudulent video.

Kippreport’s Eva Fernandes and I made use of McDonald’s Open Kitchen policy and met with the Operations Director and a marketing executive.

We were told that the employees there believed so much in the quality of the burgers that they ate at least two meals there every day. I wonder why none of them looked like Morgan Spurlock even after years of working with McDonaldʼs. It makes me wonder if the employees actually eat the burgers they claim to…Or maybe all of them have super metabolisms.

QUALITY CONTROL
Coming to the quality of food at McDonaldʼs, I must say that we were impressed with the kitchen. From what we saw, they take all possible steps to deliver hygienic food to their customers.

Some of the interesting things included:
– an hourly alarm for everyone to wash hands
– use of vegetable wash to remove dirt, soil and chemicals from vegetables
– eggs are washed and oiled to maintain hygiene;
– a shelf life of 10-15 minutes for all cooked patties (anything not consumed in that much time is thrown)
– doing a beef integrity test twice a day to make sure that the beef served to customers is at the safe temperature.

Most vegetables are sourced from KSA-based Del Monte. Slivered onion and chopped lettuce come pre-packed in bags, ready to use. Being a cleanliness freak myself, I did not see anything alarming in the kitchen.

OIL AND PATTY CHECK
One thing that concerned me was the use of palm oil for frying. Palm oil has 52 percent saturated fats (Butter has 66 percent and sunflower oil has 11 percent for your reference). All the chicken patties, vegetable patties, chicken nuggets are fried in this oil.

We were told that McDonaldʼs filters the oil regularly and changes it after every 2-3 days. It might sound like good measure, but how many of us would be fine using the same oil to fry even fifth or sixth time in our kitchen. Point to ponder!

We also found that the chicken patties are ready to eat (read: pre-cooked) prior to flash-freezing. These frozen patties when reach the outlets are fried again before they go in a Mac. Phew! Double fried patties!

McDonaldʼs insists that the only additive they have in their food is salt and pepper. They also follow a guideline that fat content in food should not exceed 24 percent. I am not sure what it means, so I went to the website to get more nutritional information.

And boom! Indeed McDonalds is right about additives. Some of the breakfast items, sandwiches and burgers have whopping sodium content, as high as 70 – 90 percent of our dayʼs requirement. You can download a list of nutritional facts here. So what happens to your body if you get 90 percent of your sodium requirement in one meal?

I am looking forward to go to another McDonaldʼs kitchen without an appointment with the management. McDonald’s has been running its Open Kitchen Policy for a little more than three years now and claims to have hosted 5,000 visits. I’d like to if the standards are same.

Anyone can walk-in into some pre-designated McDonaldʼs outlets at specified times. I would encourage readers to go there and share their findings with everyone. You can find list of participating outlets at any McDonaldʼs outlet and also in the article written by Eva here.

THE VERDICT
The video on lettuce washed in a washing machine looks next to impossible, or maybe a one-off case since the kitchen in the video looks a lot like McDonaldʼs kitchen. McDonaldʼs seem to follow a culture of safety and hygiene on a regular basis. But will I eat a Big Mac again in near future? I am not sure as long as I am not pregnant and craving for one =).

Article originally appeared in kippreport.

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