There are around 11 million overweight or obese adults in Australia. Of those, 4.7 million defined as obese, according to Roy Morgan’s State of the Nation Australia Report 19: Spotlight on Health. This group of the population are on average overweight by a whopping 16.5 kilograms.
Other research shows the rate of obesity in the Australian population has increased 81% since 1980. There have been growing calls amongst some health experts for government regulation of junk food marketing.
Against this backdrop, McDonald’s is extending a home delivery service trial, McDelivery. The service is a natural experiment for the global food giant, but some experts are concerned it’s in areas of the country battling the most against obesity.
Rob Moodie, the professor of public health at the University of Melbourne says McDonald’s is taking advantage of people in the poorer areas where they can make the most sales.
“It’s their job to make money. They have no allegiance to the Australian population,” Moodie said.
“I don’t know if McDonald’s has any sense of responsibility full stop. They’ve never made any attempts to be involved in good health.
“They should be driving for better control of reformulation of food,” he said referring to improving the nutritional value of McDonalds’ food products and labelling. “As should the rest of the food industry.
“[Home delivery] just makes it that much more easier for people to eat nutrition-poor food.”
The NSW trial of the home delivery service provided by McDonald’s is live in North Parramatta, Westmead and Rosehill which all reside in an area which has a combined overweight or obese rate of 60%.
Other NSW McDonald’s offering the service include Waterloo with a combined rate of 62%, Stanmore at 57%, Sydney Airport Gateway and Kingsford at 57%. It’s also going to be trialled in Karratha in Western Australia, which has a lower rate of 35% combined overweight or obese people.
The Hervey Bay in Queesland and South Melbourne in Victoria services are expected to go live later this month. Their overweight-obese rates are 64% and 67% respectively.
Hervey Bay is a part of Queensland’s Wide Bay area, and is struggling to win the war against obesity.
According to a Queensland government’s self-reported health status report for 2011-2012 (PDF), in Wide Bay only 3 in 10 adults in this area are considered a healthy weight – 37% of the residents are considered overweight and another 30% were classified as obese. That’s 58,000 overweight adults and 47,000 obese adults.
McDelivery is created in partnership with Menulog, and will be available from 6pm — 9pm seven days a week in Hervey Bay for a delivery fee of $5 and a minimum order of $25.
Business Insider asked McDonald’s corporate communications manager Chris Grant about the company’s decision on the locations for the trials.
“We’re just trying to get a cross section of the country,” he said. “It will be a while before we have results on performance and sale. We don’t release the numbers when it comes to sales.
“We don’t know how long the trials will continue to. As long as it needs to, to see if it’s worthwhile.
“Our customers have often said they like the idea of Macca’s delivery so we’re currently trialling it in a number of our restaurants. We will look to extend the service once these trials are completed.”
Grant also told the ABC that Hervey Bay was selected after “looking at factors including population growth and accessibility to ensure efficient delivery for customers and the operations of the restaurant.”
Grant says through the service customers “can order from a nearly full range of menu items, including burgers, French fries, salads or wraps, and as always can review comprehensive nutrition and ingredient information on our website.”
While the recommended daily calorie intake varies depending on your height, weight, gender and activity levels, The Healthy Food Guide suggests for people with moderate exercise levels (sedentary work with regular exercise of at least 30 minutes) the average woman should consume 2350 calories a day, while men should consume 3000.
If the average person was to order a medium Quarter Pounder meal with a caramel sundae, using Bupa’s calorie calculator their calorie consumption would be 1413 – far more than a woman’s daily intake and close to half a man’s.
Despite the concern over the impact the service will have on obesity levels in Australia, researcher Rebecca Huntley, author of Eating Between the Lines: food and equality in Australia said home delivery was not the problem that needed addressing.
“It’s easy to go ‘Oh my god’ Maccas is doing home delivery, it’s going to make obesity worse. But really it’s just doing the same as Pizza Hut,” she says. “There are a million ways to get fast food in the house. We’re just not used to McDonald’s doing it.”
Huntley says what Australia should be concerned with is that these types of food are often more affordable than buying produce at the supermarket.
“This doesn’t deserve the leave of panic it is receiving… There are bigger issues to tackle than home delivery. The problem is McDonald’s is cheaper for families (on a lower income) than buying a meal at the supermarket. That’s the fundamental problem.
“I’m not saying go and eat Maccas”, she says, “but if you’re about prevention of obesity home delivery is not the problem.”