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On the subject of business ethics, here’s something to chew on: companies offering the cure to their own affliction.

A lot of newspaper ink has been dedicated this week to McDonald’s trial-run of mini-gyms in some of its restaurants, including in Santa Ana, Whittier and Elk Grove, Calif.

If McDonald’s finds some success with the little workout studios, you can be sure San Diego won’t be far behind. (According to McDonald’s website, there are 121 of its restaurants in San Diego County.)

McDonald’s efforts on fitness smack of those tobacco company-sponsored TV advertisements intended to keep kids from smoking. Did anyone else see “Super Size Me”?

You would hope their hearts are in the right place, but it’s easy to wonder if companies like McDonald’s are just trying to deflect scrutiny, particularly when childhood obesity is such a hot topic. As consumers’ taste for fatty foods decline, so too do profits for the companies that sell them. Krispy Kreme, for instance, saw their sales decline by 18 percent in each of the last two years.

While Krispy Kreme donuts were once the stuff of office lunchroom snacking, just try to find a Krispy Kreme shop in San Diego today. There used to be a half-dozen, now there’s just two. The one in the Sports Arena parking lot was replaced by a presumably more health-conscious eatery, Chick-fil-A.

So, is it unfair to point out the hypocrisy of McDonald’s attempt to encourage little couch potatoes to be little gym rats? Is the company making a genuine effort to make a dent in America’s obesity problem, or is it just another clever marketing campaign?

JENNIFER MCENTEE

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