A Critique of Mcdonald’s Unethical and Unprofessional Business Practices in The Movie Supersize Me

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1803 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Words: 1803|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Brief Summary
  2. Ethical/Unethical Business Practices
  3. Marketing
  4. Public Relations
  5. Conclusion

Brief Summary

Several legal suits have been brought against McDonald's Restaurants that they are knowingly selling food that is unhealthy. Documentarian Morgan Spurlock conducts an unscientific experiment using himself as the guinea pig. His experiment is to eat only McDonald's for thirty days, three meals a day. If he is asked by the employee if he would like the meal supersized, he has to agree. By the end of the thirty days, he will have had to have eaten every single item on the Menu, at least once.

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Before commencing with the experiment, he is examined by three doctors, a general practitioner (Dr Daryl M. Isaacs), a cardiologist (Dr Steven Siegel) and a gastroenterologist (Dr Lisa Ganjhu). Various medical tests were done. They all conclude that his general health condition is outstanding. They will also monitor him over the thirty day period, to ensure that he is not placing his body at risk. He also consults with a nutritionist (Bridget Bennett) and an exercise physiologist (Eric Rowley). They also conclude that his fitness is above average.

Morgan's girlfriend, Alex Jamieson, who is a vegan and a chef, is a part of Morgan's journey during the film. She watches as his health begins to deteriorate and he has sexual dysfunction, mood swings and even greater health battles during this time period. For the 30 day period, he will also not exercise and walk under 3,000 steps per day. Throughout the film, he visits various McDonalds in different states. His weight increases by 25 pounds, his blood pressure shoots up, his cholesterol goes up 65 points, he has symptoms of toxic shock to his liver, his energy drops, he has chest pains, and his girlfriend complains about their sex life. At one point his doctors advises him to stop the experiment before his condition becomes fatal. The doctors say they have seen similar side-effects from binge drinkers and they say that he is addicted to the food.

As he goes through the experiment, he speaks to a number of experts on the pros and cons of the fast food lifestyle. Interspersed between his interactions with his healthcare team and meals, are scenes depicting how the fast food industry targets children. Alex supervises Morgan's diet after the experiment in order to help him to lose the weight he has put on which took 14 months. The film concludes with the observation that 6 weeks after the movie's premiere, McDonald's discontinued the Supersize option and began to market healthier menu items, such as salads.

Ethical/Unethical Business Practices

Ethics refers to conduct we perceive as right and wrong. Business ethics refers to accepted principles of right and wrong that direct the behaviour of business people, employers and employees and how they choose to interact with each other.

Some business ethics are determined by law, but most decisions are left to the better judgment of the individual based on his moral and ethical principles.

Ethical behaviour goes beyond obeying laws, rules and regulations and involves doing the right thing. Ethics means, the moral principles that serve as a guide between right and wrong. Ethical business practices refer to honesty when doing business, safety in the workplace and social and environmental issues. Ethical codes have been developed for industries, companies, managers and employees because the cost of white collar crime is high, both for businesses and society. It should also be borne in mind that what is ethical for one culture or population group may be unethical for another group.

Unethical behaviour in business refers to actions that do not conform to the acceptable standards of business operations - failing to do what is right in every situation.

In some cases, it may be an individual within a business who is unethical in the course of his or her job and at other times, we're talking about unethical corporate culture, where the entire business is corrupt from top to bottom, often having disastrous results for society. It is important to realize that what is unethical may not always be illegal, though sometimes it is both. There are many instances where businesses may act within the law, but their actions hurt society and are generally considered to be unethical.

The McDonalds’ menu in general is considered to be unhealthy. The portions are extremely large and consumers are further encouraged to “SUPERSIZE” for a nominal price difference. These meals are more than the limit of food an average person consumes per meal. The fat and sugar content is outrageously excessive and harmful to the body. All except 7 items contain sugar, including the salads. The food is addictive, leads to cravings and causes fluctuations in peoples’ moods when eaten in excess. Ongoing consumption of the meals leads to severe health complications ultimately resulting in chronic health conditions.

Although it is legal, the above clearly illustrates unethical business practices. The manner in which the meals are marketed, attracts the unsuspecting consumer. It “tricks” the customer into believing that he is getting a “healthy” meal, which is value for money.


Marketing is one of the business functions and works in conjunction with all the other functions to achieve the goals of the business. Marketing is about understanding customers and finding ways to provide products or services which they demand. Marketing refers to activities undertaken by a company to promote the buying or selling of a product or service.

There are five main factors which convince a customer to buy a product or service:

  • Product: Is the product or service suitable for the current market and customers? In comparison to the competitors, is the product or service significantly superior?
  • Price: Is the price of the product or service competitive and affordable to the target market? Are consumers willing to pay the pricing the business demands?
  • Promotion: The way in which the business informs their prospective customers about the products and services they have to offer. Advertising is crucial to the success of any product or service.
  • Place: This is the place where buyers and sellers meet in order for sales to take place. The company has to choose the best possible forms and locations in order to increase sales.
  • Packaging: The manner in which the product is presented is critical to successful sales. The first impression about the product or service often determines whether consumers will buy the product or use the service.

Market orientation involves researching what people want or need, and then developing it. It means that the product is likely to be useful, therefore successful.

Product orientation involves designing a new product and persuading people to buy it. This is common with high-tech goods. The need for a product will only be felt after it has already been developed.

A market consists of different groups of people based on the following: Age, Gender, Social class, Location, Culture or religion.

Marketing can be used to introduce a new product or increase sales of an existing one. It can also be used to introduce an existing product to a new market segment. Marketing plays a crucial role in changing the image of a brand.

Marketing increases the revenue of a business by providing the consumer with a wider range of choices.

McDonalds spent 1.4 billion dollars on marketing in 2001. They account for 43% of the total number of fast food outlets in the USA. They position their stores everywhere, including hospitals. The average American in the city centre will pass a few McDonalds outlets during the course of his day. McDonalds targets children by having play places at their stores. They also provide a fun environment to celebrate birthday parties. “Happy Meals” targeted at children is a marketing strategy used to increase their sales and volumes.

Public Relations

Public Relations is the development and management of ethical strategies, which uses communication to build relationships with various stakeholders including the public. PR is all about enhancing a company’s reputation. It is used to gain trust and understanding. It is result of what the company says and what others say about the company.

PR professionals help a business or individual to develop a positive reputation with the public through various paid or unpaid communications. They also help businesses to defend their reputation during a crisis that threatens their credibility.

Objectives of public relations:

  • To achieve favourable publicity about the business
  • To build the image and reputation of the business and its products, particularly amongst customers
  • To communicate effectively with customers and other stakeholders

Traits of Public Relations professionals

  • Good verbal and written communication skills.
  • Multitasking capabilities and ability to manage time effectively
  • Organisation and planning
  • Interest in media
  • Flexibility
  • Work well under pressure
  • Problem solving
  • Adaptability

Public relations (PR) is more powerful than advertising because the message communicated by the business through PR is often more believable than paid advertising. The best three words to describe public relations are communication, social and reputation.

After the release of the movie, McDonalds made a concerted effort to correct some of the “misconceptions” about its meals. They introduced a range of premium salads, which supposedly was the healthier option. They removed the supersize option from their menu. They began sponsoring sporting events to show how health conscious they are.


The content covered in Grade 11 includes a chapter on Professionalism and Ethics. Professionalism is being skilled and competent in your chosen occupation and having a good attitude that displays commitment, values, focus and respect for others. Ethics are moral principles that govern the behaviour of a person or group. There are also business principles that govern professionalism and ethics. These principles must be followed and are critical to the success and smooth running of a business.

The movie, “Super Size Me” outlines unethical and unprofessional business practices in the McDonalds chain. The fast food franchise markets and sells food that is reasonably cheap and filling, but also extremely detrimental to the health of consumers even if eaten occasionally. The ingredients used to make the food are supposedly not 100% organic. The products undergo lengthy processes of production during which various additives, stabilizers and preservatives are added to ensure that they last long and taste good.

Various experiments have been conducted where people see how long it takes for a homemade burger versus a McDonald’s burger to decompose. The McDonalds burgers can take up to a month to start getting fungus.

As seen in the movie, during the course of his experiment, Morgan was at risk of heart failure and his liver was almost non-functional. He became addicted to the food and his health deteriorated. He experienced mood swings, depression and withdrawal symptoms, especially between meals.

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Most workers and pupils don’t carry a packed lunch from home. They end up eating the cheapest fast food available to them, which are unhealthy. A franchise can still make billions if they sold organic, fresh and healthy food at similar prices to fast foods. People will be able to eat 3 meals a day from one outlet without compromising on their health or wallet.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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A Critique Of McDonald’s Unethical And Unprofessional Business Practices In The Movie SuperSize Me. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from
“A Critique Of McDonald’s Unethical And Unprofessional Business Practices In The Movie SuperSize Me.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021,
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