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Bill Clinton and McDonald's: Let's forgo the fries and fight the fat

By Kevin Conlon, CNN
updated 1:30 PM EDT, Fri September 27, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bill Clinton was once the most famous aficionado of Big Macs and other high-calorie offerings
  • He and McDonald's say they are now joining efforts to help fight obesity
  • McDonald's will soon offer a fries substitute: Side salad, fruit or vegetable
  • Center for Science in the Public Interest offers limited applause for the move

(CNN) -- Back in the day, Bill Clinton was the highest-profile devotee of the highest-calorie items on the McDonald's menu.

What a difference a few years -- and a quadruple-bypass surgery -- can make.

The fast food giant and the former Big Mac fan-in-chief announced they were coming together Thursday to help fight the scourge of obesity.

Instead of just French fries to go with your value meal, McDonald's soon will offer you a choice of a side salad, fruit or vegetable as a substitute.

Video: Newt Gingrich on his love affair with McDonald's food

They also pledged to promote only water, milk and juice as the beverage that comes with a Happy Meal and to use Happy Meal packaging to "generate excitement" for fruits and vegetables.

"If we want to curb the catastrophic economic and health implications of obesity across the world, we need more companies to follow McDonald's lead and to step up to the plate and make meaningful changes" Clinton said in a McDonald's press release. "I applaud them for doing it."

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But not everyone was popping the Champagne after the announcement -- or even the water, milk, or juice.

"Ronald McDonald's slow march toward healthier meals made a major advance today, but a long road lies ahead for the company" said Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. It's something even McDonald's acknowledged.

"And we know there's more to do" CEO Don Thompson said in a statement. "We will continue to use our size and scale around the world to help educate, empower and encourage our customers to make informed choices so they can live a balanced and healthy lifestyle."

McDonald's said these new changes will come to 20 major markets around the world and will be fully implemented by 2020.

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