Group calls on JPS to get rid of McDonald's

FORT WORTH -- A national advocacy group is calling on John Peter Smith Hospital to close the McDonald's restaurant at its main campus, saying hospitals should "stop fostering a food environment that promotes harm, not health."

The group Corporate Accountability International says it mailed letters last week to JPS and more than 20 other healthcare centers that house fast-food establishments.

"The rates of children suffering from diet-related disease are staggering," the group wrote. "Today, private practices, pediatric clinics, and emergency rooms are increasingly bearing witness to children suffering from preventable chronic conditions related to the food they eat."

JPS Chief Executive Robert Earley said that he had not seen the letter but that McDonald's has operated at JPS since 1992. The restaurant's contract expires in August 2013, and the hospital will consider its options then, he said.

"Since we are a provider of healthcare and we want to make sure that everybody is as healthy as possible, then the menu that has been a traditional McDonald's menu probably won't be something we can continue on with," Earley said.

A McDonald's spokeswoman said in a statement that the company has added more menu choices, offering a variety of meals that provide less than one-third of the government's recommendation for total fat, sodium and calories.

The company promotes the idea that "it's not about where you eat; rather, it's about what and how much a person chooses to consume during every eating occasion," spokeswoman Danya Proud said.

McDonald's has 14,000 restaurants nationwide, and only 26 are at hospitals, she added.

"As always, we continue to assess our menu and actively engage in dialogue with experts to determine opportunities to offer expanded menu choices and additional information and education that enable our customers to make the choices that are right for them," she said.

Corporate Accountability International describes itself as an organization that demands corporate accountability to public interests. Letters were sent to several other Texas hospitals, including Texas Children's Hospital of Houston.

The organization is not the only one to take a critical view of fast food in healthcare facilities. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine issued a report last year that said some hospitals house multiple fast-food restaurants.

A South Carolina healthcare facility offered five fast-food options and a cafeteria serving chicken-fried steak, the report said. A San Diego medical center housed three fast-food restaurants and offered a patient menu that included pork chops and meatball sandwiches.

"Many health care facilities offer high-fat, high-cholesterol fare that contributes to the very medical problems that land many patients in the hospital," the report said.

Earley said the goal at JPS will be to offer hospital guests and employees food that is "healthy, affordable and available."

"I think overall the attitude of the nation on food and fast food in general is changing," he said.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1

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