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Company: McDonalds
Subject: Nanomaterial Product Safety
Year: 2009
Sector: Food Retail/Processing
Lead Filer: As You Sow Foundation
Cofiler(s): Green Century Capital Management, Sisters of St. Joseph
Outcome: Withdrawn in response to corporate commitments

Whereas: Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter at the molecular scale to build structures, tools, or products. The extremely small particles create opportunities for innovation; however the scientific community has raised serious questions about safety.

The processed food industry is involved in research and development of the use of nanomaterials. The novel properties of nanomaterials offer many new opportunities for food industry applications, for example as potent nutritional additives, stronger flavorings and colorings, or antibacterial ingredients for food packaging. However, nanomaterials may also result
in greater toxicity risks for human health and the environment.

McDonald’s is known to use nanomaterials in its hamburger packaging: “It'll be interesting to see if there's any backlash when consumers realize their McDonald's burgers are in contact with naoparticles.” (McDonalds Goes Nanotech, July 10, 2006, Nanotechbuzz.com)

The company has also been reported to use nanomaterials in milk shakes: "When you get a thick milkshake from McDonald's, you think that's cream you're drinking, but actually it's silica nanoparticles." (University of California Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgenau, at Advanced Light Source colloquium on liquid crystal gels, March 2, 2006, ScienceReview.Berkeley.edu)

Some nanoparticles ingested from food or water, or breathed in, can pass through the intestinal walls or lungs and reach the bloodstream, allowing them almost unrestricted access to the human body. Once in the blood, their size allows some nanomaterials to pass the blood-brain barrier. Nanoparticles can interrupt important chemical communication between enzymes and hormones, and can cause immune responses. Nanomaterials such as silver, titanium dioxide, zinc, and zinc
oxide that are now used in nutritional supplements, food packaging, and food contact materials have been found to be highly toxic to cells in test tube studies.

The proponents are particularly concerned about nanomaterials in products that are marketed to children, or used by women who are pregnant or nursing.

Nanomaterials in consumer products may pose significant financial, liability and reputational risks. The insurance giant, Swiss Re, notes that “what makes nanotechnology completely new from the point of view of insuring against risk is the unforeseeable nature of the risks it entails and the recurrent and cumulative losses it could lead to, given the new properties …”

Proponents believe nanomaterials are being sold to the public at large without adequate testing to ensure safety, and often without any notice or warning of their presence or potential hazard. Proponents believe that the best way to protect both public health and shareholder value is to avoid producing products with nanomaterials unless they have been subject to robust evaluation for human health and environmental safety, and to label all products that contain nanomaterials.

Resolved: Shareholders request that the Board publish a report to shareholders on McDonald’s policies on the use of nanomaterials in its products and packaging, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information, by October 1, 2009. This report should discuss any new initiatives or actions, aside from regulatory compliance, that management is taking to reduce or eliminate potential human health or environmental impacts.


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