The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a complaint with the Tarrant County Public Health Department Tuesday regarding the JPS McDonalds location. The complaint, signed by Susan Levin, director of nutrition education with the Physicians Committee, urged the department and the JPS Health Network Board of Managers not to renew the lease agreement for the McDonalds. The board of managers is scheduled to meet Thursday, and the renewal of the McDonalds lease is on the agenda.
The McDonalds current lease term began on Aug. 17, 2013 and is set to end Aug. 16. The Board of Managers is going to consider a one-year extension. Under the current agreement, the basic terms include McDonalds paying rent to the hospital. Additionally, a percent of the McDonalds gross anual sales goes to the JPS Foundation.
“If the fast food contract ends and the amendment mentioned above is rejected at the July 11 board meeting, John Peter Smith Hospital could partner with a vendor that offers flavorful, low-cost plant-based meals that can help people prevent and even reverse diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure,” the letter reads.
Leslie Rudloff, the director of legal affairs for the Physicians Committee, said the complaint is part of a movement to change the fast food environment in hospitals. The American Medical Association has a policy asking all hospitals to offer more nutritional options.
“And fast food restaurants typically don’t have those things,” Rudloff said. “They offer the exact opposite.”
The complaint cites other Texas hospitals that got closed McDonalds restaurants, including Parkland Hospital in Dallas and Ben Taub Hospital in Houston.
The letter said that frequent consumption of fast food is linked to higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, which is something hospitals like JPS is supposed to help prevent.
In 2013 (the most recent countywide data available by the Centers and Disease Control and Prevention), Tarrant County’s diabetes rate was 11 percent. The rate for Texas in 2015 was 11.2 percent.
In a statement, JPS said the hospital does already provide healthy options.
“At JPS’ request, the franchise owner expanded the menu to provide an assortment of healthy options not available at other locations. The hospital’s cafeteria, which is open to team members and all visitors, offers a variety of healthy food choices. Additionally, JPS offers on-site food truck dining from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every night as an option for team members, visitors and patients’ family members.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Tarrant County Health Department did not have a comment about the complaint.