America's healthiest city fights McDonalds
A set of golden arches is set to rise over Loma Linda, California – a city known for its above-average longevity rates, vegetarian supermarkets and tobacco-free laws.
Home to 12,000 Adventists making up more than half city's the population, the local city council has decided to go ahead with plans for the franchise after a 3-2 majority vote. Many are opposed, however, including doctors from Loma Linda University Medical Centre.
"It has nothing to do with vegetarianism or religion," said Dr Wayne Dysinger, head of preventative medicine at the Loma Linda University Medial Centre. "We see it as a public health issue. We don’t want McDonalds because we want a healthy environment, and that ought to be our right."
Loma Linda has one of the world’s healthiest longevity rates, named as one of the four global 'blue zones' where people live longer, according to a 2005 National Geographic study.
Adventists in Loma Linda live seven years longer than the average Californian male, and four years longer than the average female. Overall, life expectancy is in the mid-80s, compared to just 65 in neighbouring city of San Bernardino, where, ironically, the world’s first McDonald’s opened in the 1940s.
McDonalds, however, insists its menu meets a variety of dietary needs. A spokesman said: "Our line of premium salads can be ordered without meat. We also offer apple slices, oatmeal and fruit and yoghurt parfaits. We believe the restaurant will support the community with a contemporary dining experience and help fuel economic growth."
The restaurant is set for construction on a site of orange groves and the bulldozers have moved in already. A group is considering raising a ballot that requires the city to ensure that the number of eating establishments that offer healthful food will always outnumber fast-food restaurants in Loma Linda.
Darold Retzer, executive pastor at Loma Linda University Church, is remaining optimistic: "I’m a lifetime vegetarian. I would assume business here is going to be a little slow."