McDonald's defies critics with an even bigger Big Mac

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Indy Lifestyle Online

When McDonald's burgers fell unfavourably under the spotlight of a film crew in Super Size Me many assumed that the fast-food chain would avoid any further reference to the size of its portions, but the prospect of a hungry new audience has prompted the restaurant to throw caution to the wind.

In a few weeks' time McDonald's will introduce the Bigger Big Mac, 40 per cent bigger than the current Big Mac.

The trumpeting of the new product flies in the face of the current furore about obesity and healthier eating and comes as the world's biggest fast-food company faces a renewed assault on its reputation, from a new book and a Hollywood film.

McDonald's has tried offering some healthier eating options in Britain, but has decided that options such as its "toasted deli sandwich" were not a success.

The new Big Mac, which will be launched in the UK for a limited period to coincide with the football World Cup this summer, will see the two beef patties of the burger made much thicker. It is also likely to be sold in Germany and Spain.

A spokeswoman for the company said: "This is a limited edition burger that will offer football fans more of what they enjoy."

The existing Big Mac has 560 calories and weighs 218g (nearly 8oz), according to the company. It contains over half of a person's recommended daily intake of saturated fats. Taken with large fries and a large milkshake, a regular Big Mac meal would pack in 2,000 calories.

The spokeswoman said: "We offer our customers a variety of choice, including salads and toasted deli sandwiches that are less than 3 per cent fat."

The company will be hoping that the Bigger Big Mac will boost flagging sales in the UK, where it has had to close 25 restaurants. The company launched a £140m refurbishment plan for its outlets yesterday and will experiment with new formats.

McDonald's is also trying to improve its image as an employer. A publicity campaign started last week, with the slogan "Not bad for a McJob", seeking to persuade prospective employees that McDonald's is a good place to work.

But given the obesity issue and competition from other fast-food chains, the company faces an uphill task. After the documentary Super Size Me, which featured stomach-churning scenes of Morgan Spurlock eating nothing but McDonald's for a month, another critic, Eric Schlosser, will be firing new salvoes. Mr Schlosser has written a version of his book Fast Food Nation for children and young teenagers. Called Chew On This, the book has been adapted for a British readership and is out next month. It challenges young readers to ask whether they really want to eat fast food.

Later in the year, a Hollywood film comes out based on Fast Food Nation. Starring Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, it tells of young fast-food workers in a town with a meat-packing plant who uncover unsavoury truths about the burger business.