The England football team may be immersed in fitness training and healthy eating, but the rest of Britain is being urged to show its enthusiasm for the World Cup by wolfing down the biggest burger ever to hit the counters of McDonald's.
Three years after pledging to introduce more salads and phase out "supersize" portions, the fast- food giant has launched the Bigger Big Mac to celebrate the start of the tournament.
McDonald's is one of the biggest sponsors of British football and says the huge burger is a limited edition product designed to offer fans "a little bit more of what they love during the World Cup".
Described as a "twist on existing burgers", the Bigger Big Mac is 40 per cent larger than the original and has 714 calories, half of the recommended daily intake for women. It also has about half of the maximum daily levels of fat and salt for adults in its ingredients, including 15 E numbers.
The fat, salt and calorie levels are almost equal to the total a child should eat in a day.
The Liberal Democrat MP, Steve Webb, has launched a petition against the burger, amid fears the marketing link with the World Cup will lure children to wrap their jaws around the 300g, two-burger circumference.
He said: "Adults can make their own minds up, but this is a product that will be pushed widely during the World Cup, and a lot of that advertising will be aimed at young people.
"Youngsters will be pestering their parents and ending up at McDonald's and eating more burgers, fatty chips and sugary drinks. It's the link with the World Cup that I'm particularly bothered about."
The launch of the burger appears to be an abrupt volte-face for the fast-food chain, after a much-vaunted announcement in 2003 that it would phase out supersizing. The company, which had suffered a slide in profits, also introduced toasted deli sandwiches, salads and fruit to counter criticism that it was contributing to the obesity epidemic.
But sales of the healthier products have remained static and account for less than 10 per cent of McDonald's sales in Britain. Their popularity may not have been helped by revelations that some of the chain's salads contain more salt and fat than a regular burger meal. The launch of the Bigger Big Mac may have been inspired by Steve Easterbrook, the new chief executive of McDonald's UK, who has signalled that rather than trying to appease the health experts, he wants to celebrate the traditional McDonald's fare. In a recent interview, he said: "Our traditional menu - hamburger, cheeseburger, Big Mac - is front and centre of our plans. It's time to stop playing defence."
Other companies appear to agree. Burger King is launching a supersize "omelet sandwich" that contains a whopping 47g of fat to rival the Bigger Big Mac.
The new McDonald's burger will be sold in Britain, Germany and France.
'Don't believe the hype: this is more box than burger'
By Oliver Duff
One week ahead of the World Cup, how better to pay homage to the second-greatest footballer ever - the now-rotund Diego Maradona - than dine out in style on the Bigger Big Mac? The smiling waitress asks if I would like large chips with it. Of course I would. And I'll have half a litre of thick strawberry milkshake, please. Sugar! Lashings of vegetable fat! Salt! I'm lovin' it.
The launch of the Bigger Big Mac is a middle-fingered salute to the corporation's critics, a fightback for fast food after the negative publicity generated by Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me.
Released for the six-week duration of the World Cup, it is presumably aimed at lard-arsed lovers of the Beautiful Game who want a burger and a beer alongside the remote.
Inside my paper bag is an enormous cardboard box. "Over 40 per cent more" says the packaging. "Allow extra time." I tear open the container. Inside? A large - but seemingly not much bigger - burger.
Over 40 per cent more. Think about that, as you imagine sinking your teeth into 40 per cent more soggy bun; 40 per cent more mayo; 40 per cent more grey lettuce, gherkins and plasticky cheese. And don't forget all those extra calories.
Yet despite all this, the Bigger Big Mac is more box than burger. Definitely a case of performance failing to live up to pre-match hype.Reuse content