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Originally published January 30 2005

The Cleveland Clinic battles with McDonald's over fast food in hospitals

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor

One of the most ridiculous things about many hospitals and surgical centers is that they host fast food restaurants like McDonald's and Pizza Hut. Now making headlines is the heated debate between the Cleveland Clinic and McDonald's restaurants. Toby Cosgrove, director of the Cleveland Clinic and a cardiovascular surgeon, wants McDonald's out of the hospital. He says (paraphrased) it is ridiculous to offer foods that are inconsistent with the heart healthy advice doctors are attempting to give their patients.

I couldn't agree more. Hospitals are supposed to be places of health and healing, and to have restaurants serving saturated fats, hamburgers with white flour buns, french fries with trans-fatty acids, milkshakes containing added sugars and soft drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup as well as aspartame is simply inconsistent with a place of health. Thus, the doctor wants McDonald's out of the hospital.

Interestingly, McDonald's defends its position by claiming to offer -- get this -- healthy menu choices. The Vice President of this particular McDonald's restaurant said, "Our menu is something we're all proud of," which is sort of interesting all by itself since I've never hear the term "pride" used in the same sentence as "McDonald's menu."

But there's something else to consider here, too: apparently the staff member of the Cleveland Clinic are hoping to keep the McDonald's restaurant there! They want to eat Big Macs and french fries, hamburgers and milkshakes.

Shocked? Actually, it's not that surprising to hear when you realize how unhealthy most people who work in the conventional medical industry truly are. This heart surgeon, Toby Cosgrove, is certainly an exception; he's apparently a trim man, 63 years of age, and is one of the few to have the courage to stand up against the fast food industry. And he's probably very healthy. But his colleagues, nurses and support staff, on average, are likely less healthy than Dr. Cosgrove, and they actually want restaurants like McDonald's in the hospital so that they can eat those foods any time they feel hungry.

The McDonald's restaurant, for its part, is actually calling this a racism issue because it turns out this McDonald's franchise is owned by an African American. So instead of answering the true issue here, which is whether or not unhealthy, disease-promoting foods should be served to heart clinic patients, they are playing the racism card, trying to turn this into a racial issue when it clearly is not.

This McDonald's restaurant apparently thinks it has the right to finish out its lease contract with the hospital and continue serving unhealthy foods to its patients. From a legal standpoint, it may indeed have that right. It's also true that McDonald's isn't the only restaurant in the building that offers unhealthy food. There are vending machines and cafeteria offerings that are equally unhealthy, because they are very high in sodium, high in saturated fat and lack nutrient density. Thus there are all sorts of foods available in the hospital that are bad for heart patients. Of course, that doesn't mean McDonald's food is any healthier, it just means that the entire Clinic is a nutritional disaster, and that Cosgrove is on the right track by starting with McDonald's. He probably intends to work his way through the vending machines and other food offerings until every item available for sale at the hospital is consistent with heart health.

Another interesting point about all of this is that some of the workers at the clinic don't appreciate the hospital acting as their parents. They think this attitude by Toby Cosgrove is paternalistic and that they should have the right to make their own decisions about what they want to eat. On the other hand, it shows that these people need parenting because they obviously don't have the wisdom to choose healthy foods on their own -- they're eating like their children would eat if they were locked in a candy store.

What's my take on all of this? Sadly, most people will eat whatever is available. So if you make unhealthy foods available, that's what they're going to eat, and if those foods cause cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and other health disorders, then that's what you're going to see in the population. It's no coincidence that the U.S. population is currently suffering from skyrocketing rates of all these chronic diseases. The solution, therefore, is to have new options available for people.

Let's face it: We shouldn't have U.S. hospitals stocking foods that destroy cardiovascular health. The whole idea is ridiculous. But it is equally ridiculous that we have McDonald's and other fast food restaurants in our public schools. Why are we feeding our schoolchildren junk food that's promoting chronic disease and impairing their ability to learn... and then turning around and complaining about the plummeting quality of education across our country? It's the food, stupid! And if you don't understand that point, it's probably because you had lunch at a fast food restaurant today and your brain isn't functioning too well.

I say we ban fast food restaurants in hospitals and public schools across the nation. No hospital and no public school with any degree of ethics should support the financial success of food and beverage companies that serve disease-promoting products. This behavior has gone on for far too long. Hospitals have sold out to fast food restaurants in order to make a buck on a lease. They have, in a sense, exploited the health of their patients in order to earn some extra money. And then those very same hospitals and clinics turn around and charge patients a couple of hundred thousand dollars to perform cardiovascular surgery that was caused by the very same type of foods those patients ate in the lobbies of those clinics in the first place.

How insane can things get in this country? That's why it's people like Toby Cosgrove who deserve tremendous credit for having the courage to stand up and challenge this cycle of disease insanity that is unfortunately now the norm here in the United States, the most diseased country in the world. And we got diseased in this country precisely because of financial deals like this, where one institution after another is selling out to drug companies or food companies or beverage companies in order to make an extra buck at the expense of its guests or patients.

Because if people want to destroy their own health in their own homes, that's certainly their free choice -- we still live in a free society. But if they're going to go to a hospital or a place of public education, they should not be tempted with foods that we now know directly promote chronic disease. In a sane world, none of these institutions would have ever agreed to let fast food restaurants and soft drink companies onto their premises in the first place, but it seems like sanity is sometimes late to the party, especially here in the United States where free market greed tends to be the number one priority regardless of who gets hurt in the process.

It's only through these wake up calls like skyrocketing rates of obesity and chronic disease, the Vioxx scandal and the FDA credibility scandal (where we find that even two thirds of the FDA's own scientists don't have confidence in the agency's ability to protect the American public) that we are reminded to open our eyes, take a look around and ask some serious questions like "Hey, if this is a hospital treating heart patients, should we really be serving french fries and double cheeseburgers in the lobby?" Well, of course not! Only a McDonald's representative would insist that they should. Everybody else who has any remaining cognitive ability would agree with Toby Cosgrove on this. The man is right, he deserves credit for his courage in standing up against McDonald's, and I hope he is victorious in evicting the restaurant from the clinic.

Let it be the first of many such evictions. It's time to boot fast food restaurants and soft drink companies from all our institutions of learning and health.


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