McDonalds' nutrition charts: Obviously faked numbers

2005-02-16 01:43

This caught my eye, while I was at McDonalds’ today. These numbers were found originally printed on the back of a placemat. The same numbers were provided by a little brochure called “A Full Serving of Nutrition Facts”, and match the information I found on the McDonald’s web page, at http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controller.nutrition.index1.html.

Let’s look at these numbers. I omitted some of the columns which were all 0s, such as the Protein count.

Nutrition Facts Serving Size Calories Sodium (mg) % Daily Value Carbohydrates (g) % Daily Value Dietary Fiber (g) % Daily Value Sugars (g)
Coca-Cola® Classic (Child) 12 fl oz cup 110 5 0 29 10 0 0 29
Coca-Cola® Classic (Small) 16 fl oz cup 150 10 0 40 13 0 0 40
Coca-Cola® Classic (Medium) 21 fl oz cup 210 15 1 58 19 0 0 58
Coca-Cola® Classic (Large) 32 fl oz cup 310 20 1 86 29 0 0 86

Now, the calorie numbers are a little curious; for three sizes of drink, they estimate 10 calories less than “10 calories per fluid ounce”. Maybe the 21-ounce drink doesn’t have ice.

But look at the sodium numbers. Isn’t that an oddly regular progression? Let’s just do a little spreadsheet of this.

OuncesSodium (mg)mg/oz
1250.4167
16100.6250
21150.7143
32200.6250

Does anything strike you as a little odd about these numbers? For comparison, I went to the Coca-Cola (UK) web page, which gives nutrition facts:

http://www.coca-cola.co.uk/nutrition/coca-cola.asp says that Coca-Cola has 0g of sodium per 100ml. A fluid ounce is 29.57353 ml. So, maybe Coca-Cola UK is rounding down.

According to Coca-Cola in Australia, there’s actually 10mg of sodium per 100ml of soda. That would get us 35.4 mg of sodium in a 12-ounce cup, assuming no ice. But hey, if your glass was 85% full of ice, you could get down to 5mg.

But what’s most disturbing is that these numbers are obviously self-contradictory. The number of milligrams of sodium per ounce can hardly be varying this much when it’s all coming from the same vending machine!

In short, it looks very much as though these numbers were simply made up from whole cloth. If we trust the Coca-Cola Australia page, we get 94.6mg of sodium in a 32-ounce cup… But honestly, I don’t trust any of these numbers.

This leaves me wondering how many of the other numbers on the menu are made up. What disturbs me is how obviously shoddy these numbers are. It is obvious that a 16-ounce glass of a given substance should not contain twice as much sodium as a 12-ounce glass of the same substance. The straight linear progression makes no sense.

Other drinks listed on their site (diet coke, sprite) tend to give plausible numbers; at least, for instance, the sodium content of the child and small is in a 3:4 ratio.

I notice also that “Hi-C Orange Lavaburst” has patently stupid numbers. The content, in mg of sodium, follows the progression “0 5 10 10”. So, a 12-ounce glass has no sodium at all, but a 21-ounce glass has twice as much as a 16-ounce glass…

The Hi-C error could be attributed to careless rounding. However, the Coca-Cola error can’t be rounding, and frankly, makes no sense at all.

Peter Seebach

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Comments

  1. That's just crazy.

    If you haven't already seen it, I recommend the movie "Supersize Me". It shows firsthand what eating McDonalds food for a month straight will do to you. Much easier than trying to figure out their numbers. :-)

    -- Doug

    Doug Muth · 2005-02-16 13:32 · #

  2. Perhaps the level of sodium does vary according to the country that is producing it. I'm pretty sure that Coke isn't exactly the same around the world. Coke in Mexico seemed to taste different, in any event.


    Tiffany · 2005-02-16 16:46 · #

  3. I can believe that the amount changes from country to country, just not from cup to cup.

    seebs · 2005-02-16 16:58 · #

  4. If you're right, isn't that, like, illegal?

    As for "Supersize Me," that's a sham. The problem wasn't McDonalds or its food; it was that he undertook always to order the mximum amount of food and to say "yes" to any invitation to supersize. He was eating around 5,000 calories a day, IIRC. That'll do it.

    --Seebs' Mom

    — linsee · 2005-02-18 11:01 · #

  5. You are assuming that each cup also gets an exact proportion of ice.

    That isn't necessarily true, and McDonalds could very well have accounted for the amount of ice that each serving size cup gets.

    — hanzie · 2005-02-23 12:51 · #

  6. That wouldn't explain why the calorie content is linear with size of cup. Furthermore, it's hard to imagine the amount of ice being such that a 16oz cup (33% bigger) has twice as much coke as a 12oz cup.

    The sodium numbers are definitely faked.

    seebs · 2005-02-23 22:32 · #

  7. The sodium numbers are consistent with a sodium concentration of 0.60 to 0.62 mg/oz rounded to the nearest 5 mg. This very well could be a rounding error. I discovered this using Excel with the formula "=ROUND([Concentration]*[Ounces]*2,-1)/2)".

    McDonalds' isn't making the numbers up. Rather, their choice of rounding increment is just less than helpful.

    — ryan (fod) · 2005-02-25 14:37 · #

  8. That is very interesting how much carbohydrates adn sugars are in the drinks. it is really ridiculous. the movie "super size me" was a crazy movie. after watching it i stop eating from McDonalds. at first i didn't think McDonalds were not that bad but it is, and the only way to prvent from gaining so much weight it is to stop eating from there. Even though the fries are good.

    — Vanessa Nonog · 2005-06-04 19:25 · #

  9. "Supersize me" is the bset movie i ahve watched in years. Its amazing and if you watch it you should look at the extras at smoking Fry. It shows you waht mcdonalds fries do in your stomach. "Supersize me" should be in the educational curriculum. Its awesome

    — Samm · 2005-06-13 16:09 · #

  10. I think it's funny how so many people actually kinda missed the point about the movie "supersize me". While the movie focused on McDonalds, the same results would likely be true regardless of what fast food restaurant you chose. The bottom line, is that there really ARE people who eat that way, as horrifying as that sounds to some people. And even people who don't eat EVERY meal there, or ALWAYS supersize, eat there too often and are doing the same thing to themselves that he did...just taking longer to do it. I think that the point was that fast food is crap, and it will kill you, and that you should eat healthy, whole, and when possible organic foods if you want to be healthy and live a nice long life. I was shocked at how many of the foods people think of as 'healthy' are the worst foods for you. Some woman will go in and order a salad and a diet coke, thinking she's on her diet... but by the time she adds the little nut slivers, and the croutons, and the dressing... really she'd be just as good off nutritionally if she had ordered a big mac. I know I got really peeved when they came out with the 'fruit and walnut salad' because I thought they had finally gotten something healthier... but the yogurt is sweetened, and the nuts are CANDIED!!! It's not a salad... it's a dessert!

    — Heart · 2005-07-25 14:14 · #

  11. i am currently watching the film "supersize me" in my health class. i think it is very interesting and makes you think 2 about eating any type of fast food. infact it makes me feel totally scared! my worst fear is that someday i might be fat when i am older and no one will like me. not that all fat and disgustingly obiease "cant fit my size XXXXL pant, ill have to ride my scooter chair to get some new ones or better yet a purple mou mou"people arnt liked, but i do admit that when fat women say that models or people in magezines should be "a real or a normal sized person"by which they mean fat ugly women like them selfs does make me mad because why would any one want to be fat! but obiously these women were to busy on the phone ordering there XLarge double everything under the sun pizza delivery when a little thing(or not so little thing)called plus sized models first boomed the runnways. anyway, its pretty sad that what is supposed to be a grate country and apperently "land of the free" probably sould be called "land of the FAT."

    Napoleon

    — Napoleon · 2005-08-26 18:42 · #

  12. Napoleon: FYI: It's "GREAT", not "grate"...Grate is what judgemental comments like yours do to others' nerves. I was unable to exercise as normal after an auto accident, NOT laziness, and gained some weight for that reason...I DO NOT eat at McD's or other fast-fertiliser restaurants. Not everyone is larger than they desire dure to laziness and stupidity and you should not think it is automatically so. Furthermore, it's not just women who are obese in this country...

    — liz · 2005-08-31 11:10 · #

  13. I think the food police have gone crazy in our modern times. Lets see, people have been eating at McDonalds since 1955, and now all of a sudden its bad for you?

    — Jack · 2005-09-22 08:39 · #

  14. you have to think about the health damage from fast food. Thats why 60% of americans are FAT.

    — Raoul · 2005-10-08 11:02 · #

  15. Love is two people sipping Coca Cola from the same straw on a warm sunny day.

    — Lamar Cole · 2005-10-12 14:02 · #

  16. Im sorry but, everyone who is FAT always has an excuse to why they are fat. Supersize me is just to show what happens when you eat unhealthy food excessively. I weigh 120, and i eat whatever i feel like.i always eat in moderate amounts. That is the key, as well as staying active. Dont blame being fat on just the food, you have to blame it on your choices...

    — Jennifer · 2005-10-26 11:16 · #

  17. In science we're watching "Supersize Me". Its discusting what he eats. The first time he gets the super size he's not used to eating all that so he has to throw up!
    I hardly ever eat fast food(0 to 2 times a month)now that I know what it does to you I don't want to eat it at all! I never knew that obeisity killed almost as many people as smoking!

    — r · 2005-11-02 18:07 · #

  18. Agian, all fast food is absolutly descusting!!! Never eat it!!!

    — r · 2005-11-03 14:29 · #

  19. all you out there defending McDonalds and buying your kids chicken nuggets, thinking you are feeding them something healthy, how do you feel about a chicken "slurry," made of hundreds of whole chickens, including beaks, legs, intestines (and maybe their contents), heads, etc.? All fried up in rancid, over-used grease. Still have an appetite?

    — tory · 2005-12-10 15:48 · #

  20. I think someone screwed up on the mg. If you look at the rest of the numbers, they are proportional. The correct (internal McD) numbers, at least for US cups is
    16 oz = 1.38 x 12 oz
    21 oz = 1.98 x 12 oz
    32 oz = 2.94 x 12 oz
    This proportion takes into consideration the air/expansion gap at the top, under the lid. A 32 ox cup has a disproportionately larger surface area, and if you've ever been served a cup full to the lid, you will notice it overflows as it warms up.
    Also note that Sodium is a factor of the water in each country and city. Where Coca Cola has guidelines as to the maximum, the water you drink in each city has a different level. My local city water where I am at the moment (Bolivia) has 12.8 mg/L. A quick check in the Internet shows water in Cincinati, Ohio - USA is either 18mg/L or 31mg/L depending on which plant supplies your house. so two McDonalds in the same city will have different amounts in their Coca Cola.
    -
    I ate 2 to 3 meals a day in McDonald's for 25 years and left without at the same weight I started. Only since I left them 9 years ago
    have I gained weight.
    -
    It is amazing how many false rumors go around. As purchasing director for 20 countries, I oversaw the production of Nuggets in many plants, from the US to Argentina and many in between. NOWHERE were beaks, intestions, etc. used or allowed in the production. Only completely and carefully deboned breast and thy meat. Not even leg or wing meat went into them, mostly because it is too labor intensive and too riskey that cartiledge and things get in. Also there is a better market for wings and legs than putting them in nuggets.

    The trouble with facts is that they kill rumors, and rumors are more fun.

    — Richard · 2005-12-29 07:04 · #

  21. hi yes ok well i think that you need to put charts of the fats in your foods on your website so that people know what exactly they are eating and you need to put these charts into a very noticable area on your website!i would appreciate it if you would send this information to my email for i am a student at nampa high school an am doing a research project an i need this information in order to finnish thank you.i love your food i have friends that work there. its awesome
    kristin

    — kristin · 2006-02-15 14:46 · #

  22. You see, the thing is. Everybody is different. I eat healthy and though I don't gain weight, I don't lose it either. But! I do 4 hours plus of sport each week. I lose no weight until I started living off junk food. Suddenly I lose 20 pounds. This is why some diets work wonders for some people and others don't. McDonalds is only un healthy for some people. For others it can help them lose weight.

    — Tabbi · 2006-03-21 06:11 · #

  23. Check the FDA site: the rounding rules are pretty complicated. McDonald's doesn't have to follow them because they are a quick service restaurant, but that's probably what they are doing, since in all other respects they seem to be disclosing Nutrition Facts style data.

    — Stephen · 2006-09-15 02:08 · #

  24. Fuck Mcdonalds and all you bitches. you can die and go to a french fry ruled HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    — Yoda Lahihooooo · 2006-10-04 12:37 · #

  25. I think it's funny that you guys even CARE! If you don't like McD's or what it's doing to your health, don't eat it. And if you DO like it, then engorge yourself for all anyone cares. This shouldn't even be a debate! Take care of yourselves the way you see fit.

    — Vader · 2006-10-18 10:31 · #

  26. I think this is really cool. Even if you diagree i think its important to show what were eating adn why we should be eating it or not. im doingthis for a school project adn now i know why to eat heathly and why not to eat fast food. and to the guy who kept on swearing there are children present and to keep your comemnts to yourself read the info because its true. Thank you Seebach exhibit 7 for showing me what really goes into mcdolands food.

    — lisa lola · 2006-10-24 08:30 · #

  27. Thanks we're doin an essay in english and this really helps my point along with supersize me info

    — Aggy · 2007-01-02 11:09 · #

  28. Im not defending Mcdonalds, but i am a big boy 5"6" 175 lbs i dont eat at mc D' cuz it is soooooooo unhealthy 4 u the movie supersize me shows wat fastr fod can do 2 u, and i am dieting and excersizing

    — keegan · 2007-01-04 09:32 · #

  29. ahhh!!! thats bull ****!!!

    McDonalds suck!!

    — puddles!! · 2007-02-12 13:33 · #

  30. OK, so i was reading, Chew On This, and there are so many discusting facts about mcdonalds, like they use castines (a type of bug) to their milkshakes for the coloring, they also have the bug in dannon yogurt, also mcdonalds uses 100's to 1000's of different chickens and cow in their mcnuggets and their hamburgers! They also tell use that there is no beef in their fries, but once again they lie, how affending is that to catholics on fridays?!?! and all those other religions that can't eat meat at all and they trust mcdonalds, it's pretty sad to lose trust in a company who we feed our kids their meals. when a company, like mcdonalds, pay their manufactoring workers (for their toys in the kids meals) 5 cents an hour and also make them sleep on hard floors, and they don't even feed them every day, how can we trust someone like, we need to go on strike, everysingle person will make a difference, if you agree with me, please do your best to tell others about these discusting facts and also tell them to try there hardest to not eat mcdonalds that would be great! ~thanks

    — nannerz · 2007-03-30 15:38 · #

  31. Rather than lambasting McD's maybe people should realize that perhaps this nutritional information that the author wrote about is based on information from Coca Cola. Anyone here try to every do something more in-depth than targeting one company for being unhealthy. Everyday people make unhealthy decisions, avoiding McDs isn't going to change the fact that people are going to eat pizza, hamburgers, etc somewhere else. Even if you cook your meat at home there's a chance you can undercook it and get sick, worse than any McDs burgers. And for those of you who are complaining about lack of consistency throughout McDonalds food internationally, that's because McDs buys from locals and conforms to each region. I've read Behind the Archs and really you should all too. It tells you how McDs helps support numerous countries by purchasing from smaller companies willing to conform to its standards that are much higher than national standards. Look no further than Europe where there is no government standard on nutrition. McDs actually made its own and if anything that shows you who really cares, the government or McDs. The only reason people get on McD's case is because it's internationally recognized. Before you all complain a little more, think a bigger and think of all the times you eat candies and sweets. At least with a burger you get some protein, fiber, vitamins and carbs rather than nothing.

    — Ben Li · 2007-07-13 08:01 · #

  32. oh my gosh, i really didn't realize how much calories and sugar is in the sodas. i really needs to stop drinking soda for now on...cause i do drink it 24-7..and not even water maybe a sip at the water fountain at school. Once you eat Mc Donalds for almost youre whle life as starting with happy meals it get knid of nasty after a while. Well I guess now its time just to eat subway...eat fresh.

    — Sequoia Thompson · 2007-10-09 10:11 · #

  33. yah its totally amazing how a cup of coke could be so bad. well its a good thing i eat mc donalds once a month. even then i dont drink pop i drink bottles of water.

    — yamagache · 2007-11-29 11:29 · #

  34. I've been reading about their misrepresentation of the facts concerning the oil the use, but it's hard to check. does anyone know who the major oil supplier is for mcd?

    — gene · 2008-04-07 16:21 · #

  35. what is the internal structure of McDonalds?

    — Christiana · 2008-11-27 18:31 · #

 
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