South Australian consumers have slammed McDonald’s.

A ‘citizens’ jury’ has made a majority verdict in favour of increased government regulation on some of the ultra-processed products and corporate operations of McDonald’s – even if it means paying more for unhealthy food choices.

The panel of 15 average adult ‘citizen jurists’ backed government measures to address the fast food giant’s advertising to children and young people, the unhealthy and fattening nature of some food products, as well as practices to reduce tax paid in Australia.

The jury was presented with   the results of a corporate health impact assessment (CHIA) of McDonald’s Australia.

The assessment found that some of McDonald’s products and practices such as unhealthy foods and advertising targeting children are likely to have a negative impact on health. However, the research also found that McDonald’s practices in areas such as employment and sustainability, on balance, were likely to be a positive for health.

A food industry representative and two public health professionals also made presentations to the jury on the pluses and minuses of major food corporations such as McDonald’s in Australia.

“As the debate rages on obesity and chronic disease, the sample of South Australian citizens has called for more accountability from companies such as McDonald’s, says senior research associate Dr Matt Fisher.

“These corporations, which are major employers and conduct a range of community and philanthropic activities in the community, exercise significant political influence in Australia,” Dr Fisher says.

“This tends to make governments reticent to regulate their activities, including their advertising or food products, as well as business practices to reduce tax liability in Australia.

“This study was conducted to assess whether there is community support to advance these concerns in the policy arena to improve population health.

“Outcomes of the jury are relevant to current debates on introduction of a sugar tax to combat the rise in obesity connected to consumption of highly sweetened soft drinks and potential for a range of similar actions in Australia.”

The survey report is accessible here.