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McDonald's announces new initiative to offer fruits, vegetables with value meals

McDonald's is committing to offering value meal customers a choice of side salad, fruit or vegetable as a substitute for french fries as part of a new health initiative announced in New York City.

McDonald's is partnering with the Alliance of a Healthier Generation, founded by former President Bill Clinton and the American Heart Association, to increase customers' access to fruit and vegetables, the company said.

The Clinton Global Initiative was announced Sept. 26 by Clinton, founder of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, along with Don Thompson, president and chief executive officer of McDonald's, and Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

McDonald's pledges to offer customers in 20 of the restaurant chain's largest markets a choice of salad, fruit or vegetable in value meals, and to promote only water, milk and juice as the beverage in Happy Meals on menu boards and in-store and external advertising.

Also, the fast-food chain pledged to generate excitement for fruit, vegetable, low/reduced-fat dairy or water option for kids in packaging, dedicate Happy Meal box or bag panels to communicate a fun nutrition or children's well-being message and ensure all advertising directed to children include a nutrition or healthy message.

The new initiative focuses of the following 20 top markets: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China (includes Hong Kong market), France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and United States. The company said it will retain a third-party organization to verify progress in meeting its new nutrition goals in up to 50 percent of locales in three years, and 100 percent by 2020.

"We've seen voluntary agreements with industry have profound impact -- including our work with the beverage industry to limit the amount of calories shipped to schools," Clinton said. "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. I applaud them for doing it."

"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," Thompson, the McDonald's CEO, said.

McDonald's also released a report on progress in meeting its 2011 nutrition goals, including the March 2012 introduction of a revamped Happy Meal with an automatic side of fruit, small fries and a fat-free dairy option.

As a result, company said, it has served more than 530 million packages of apple slices from Aug. 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013.