Focus: Happy birthday Ronald McDonald. No candles, but here are 30 nuggets for your customers to chew on

McDonald's is about to celebrate 30 years in the UK. But is it the evil empire or a responsible employer that revolutionised British food? Whether you love a Big Mac or wouldn't touch one with a freedom fry, David Randall has 30 McFacts that will open your eyes
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The Independent Online

If you love McDonalds you should know...

1 Business partner Ray Kroc bought out Dick and Max McDonald for $2.7m in 1961. A year later he opened a new branch of McDonald's one block from the brothers' original and remaining restaurant in Illinois, driving it out of business.

2 Ronald McDonald has been around since 1963, played in TV ads by five actors. One, Geoffrey Guiliano, later said: "I brainwashed youngsters into doing wrong. I want to say sorry to children everywhere."

3 Morgan Spurlock, a US film-maker, lived for 30 days on McDonald's food, and recorded his physical, mental and sexual decline in the film Super Size Me. Effects included: a weight gain of 25lb, liver degradation, reduced sex drive, and depression.

4 The company president in Japan, Den Fujita, says in an authorised book, Behind the Arches: "The reason Japanese people are so short and have yellow skins is because they have eaten nothing but fish and rice for 2,000 years. If we eat McDonald's hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will become taller, our skin become white and our hair blond."

5 The McLibel case, which began when the firm sued two Britons for distributing a leaflet, is one of the great corporate PR disasters. The firm spent £10m and took seven years to win a judgment eventually reduced to £40,000. The leaflet's claims about treatment of staff and the nutritional value of the food won a worldwide audience. The legal battle is now in the European Court of Human Rights.

6 A meal of a Big Mac, large fries, milkshake and ice cream cone packs more calories than eight Magnums or seven Mars bars.

7 McDonald's is no longer America's most ubiquitous fast-food chain. That is Subways sandwiches with 17,383 outlets - 3,500 more than McD's.

8 McDonald's has more than 30,000 outlets in 119 countries, on every continent except Antarctica. Its Hamburger University in Illinois has 200 students per class and has surpassed the army as the largest training organisation in the US.

9 The internet has several anti-McDs websites, most set up by the firm's employees. They include: McDonald's Workers' Resistance; McSlackers; McDonald's International Liberation Front; McSpotlight; and

10 Teen actresses Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen are the latest celebrities to endorse Happy Meals, currently in 1,035 French outlets. Mary-Kate was recently treated for an eating disorder.

11 Anti-McDonald's celebrities include Sarah Michelle Geller, who, at the age of four, appeared in a Burger King campaign knocking the size of McD burgers, and Sir Paul McCartney, who, in 2002 criticised the firm for not adopting animal welfare standards throughout its empire.

12 Baroness Thatcher opened the McDonald's UK headquarters in Finchley, her own seat. Her constituency manager, Mike Love, is now a company vice president responsible for communications in Europe. Sir Bernard Ingham, a non-executive director, said: "I can't stand those food snobs who look down their long, aquiline noses at McDonald's."

13 A McDonald's cheeseburger contains 5.9 grams of saturated fat. A Marks & Spencer BLT has 1 gram.

14 Ray Kroc once declared: "The definition of salesmanship is the gentle art of letting the customer have it your way."

15 About 120 British branches of McDonald's have mobile phone masts.

If you hate McDonalds you should know...

1 People queued for hours when the first British branch opened in Woolwich, London, in 1974. In those days burgers meant Wimpy. There are now 1,270 outlets, serving 2.5m people a day, employing 73,000.

2 McDonald's is a widespread target for anti-American feeling, yet one of the most generous donors to anti-Iraq war causes was Joan Kroc, widow of the founder. On her death last year she left $1.5bn to the Salvation Army, and $200m to National Public Radio.

3 Franchisees, who operate more than a third of UK McDonald's, have to undergo nine months' training. The company does not charge for this.

4 In 2000, McDonald's promised not to use meat reared on GM feed. The firm says it uses no GM ingredients in any of its foods.

5 McDonald's first published nutritional information in 1984, and offered low-fat burgers as far back as 1991, with the McLean Deluxe. Few customers wanted it. Recently the menu has included salads, fruit, organic milk, free-range eggs, yoghurt, and other lower calorie alternatives. The firm is now Britain's third largest seller of salads.

6 A McDonald's cheeseburger contains, says, 299 calories. This compares with 370 in one from Burger King.

7 Porridge is now on the menu in Scotland, as is Irn Bru. Other local menu variations: lamb burger in India (called a Maharajah Mac), kosher outlets in Israel, and a salmon sandwich with dill sauce in Finland.

8 Of the urban legends to dog the firm, the most fanciful is that burgers contain worm meat. Ray Kroc responded: "We couldn't afford to grind worms into our meat. Hamburger costs a dollar-and-a-half a pound, and night crawlers six dollars."

9 The term "McJobs", used to describe any low-skill, low-paid job, was originally used in 1984 by the company itself to describe a pioneering drive to "train handicapped persons as restaurant employees".

10 Not every McDonald's is a monument to plate glass. The Shrewsbury restaurant is part 13th century. Other odd outlets include a drive-through for snowmobiles in Sweden.

11 The firm's anti-litter efforts include a thrice daily clean-up within 150 metres of each store and an annual Just Bin It campaign.

12 In 2004, for the second year running, McDonald's topped Fortune magazine's list of best companies for minorities, based on its hiring and promotion policies.

13 Breakfast snobs who wouldn't be seen dead eating an egg McMuffin and so opt for Pret a Manger's decaff latte with a wholemeal blueberry muffin should know this: McDonald's owns 33 per cent of Pret.

14 McDonald's last year bought 100m free-range eggs and 46 million litres of British milk and has 5,000 hectares in the UK growing its potatoes, and 16,000 British and Irish farmers supplying it with beef.

15 The Ronald McDonald House Charities house 4,000 people in 14 countries every night. The firm is funding the training of 10,000 community football coaches in the UK.