McDonald's, which is trying to shake its image for serving processed junk food, said Monday that it's eliminating some unpalatable ingredients from its most popular menu items. That includes making Chicken McNuggets and other items without artificial preservatives, and removing high-fructose corn syrup from its burger buns, the AP reports. The changes come as the world's biggest burger chain fights to win back customers after three straight years of declining guest counts at its established US locations. Major restaurant chains are scrambling to step up the image of their food as they face more competition from smaller rivals promising wholesome alternatives.
"Why go to the position of trying to defend them if the consumer is saying, 'I prefer not to have that particular ingredient in my food'?" says Mike Andres, president of McDonald's US, during an event at the company's Illinois headquarters about its "food journey." How meaningful the changes are to customers remains to be seen. Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the moves by McDonald's don't seem to address the big-picture problem with restaurant food—the overabundance of calories. For instance, he says, swapping out high-fructose corn syrup for sugar doesn't make burger buns any healthier. (In one city, McDonald's has been testing fresh beef in its burgers.)