NEW YORK - McDonald's once again faced criticism at its annual shareholder meeting Thursday that it is a purveyor of junk food that markets to children.
The world's biggest hamburger chain has been looking to keep up with changing tastes as people increasingly opt for foods they feel are fresh or healthy. Customers can now order egg whites in its breakfast sandwiches, for example. McDonald's also recently introduced chicken wraps to go after people in their 20s and 30s looking for better-for-you options.
But on Thursday, McDonald's was taken to task by speakers associated with an advocacy group about its menu and advertising toward children. As with other shareholder meetings where critics are given the rare chance to face executives, McDonald's Corp. allotted about a half-hour for attendees to ask CEO Don Thompson questions.
Among those was a 9-year-old girl who asked Thompson to stop "tricking kids into eating your food." The girl's mother echoed the request later, saying McDonald's undermined parents by marketing to children.
Another speaker asked that McDonald's remove its locations from hospitals, while others asked it to stop targeting communities of color by signing stars such as Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas and the NBA's LeBron James.
Three of the individuals were members of Corporate Accountability, which has been critical of the company's marketing practices. Others were health professionals, parents, or writers linked to the group.
Thompson stood by the company's menu, saying McDonald's did not sell "junk food," pointing out items such as the yogurt parfait and side salad and noting that the company had been adding more fruits and vegetables.
Thompson, who took over as CEO last summer, also noted that his children eat at McDonald's and that many of its 1.8 million employees were parents.
Still, he said, "I do agree we have some issues, and we can be part of the solution."