"The health conscious residents of Loma Linda, a small California city with a large Seventh-day Adventist population, have banned together to fight against the opening of the town's first McDonald's.
Nestled in a beautiful stretch of land east of Los Angeles, the 23,000 people who live in Loma Linda enjoy one of the longest life spans in the world -- on average, residents live well into their 80s. Its people are borderline obsessed with fitness and clean living, and they have a healthy population of centenarians to prove it.
So when McDonald's decided to move in, the people of Loma Linda went into red alert. When the issue to approve its opening came up before the city council, the meeting room was packed with outraged residents and health professionals, as if a nuclear waste dump, and not a fast food chain, was coming to town.
Watch the full story on "Nightline" tonight at 11:35 p.m. ET
But the city isn't just full of fit families, it is also heavily Seventh-day Adventist, a religion that strongly encourages congregants to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, as well as an alcohol, tobacco and caffeine-free lifestyle.
Pastor Randy Roberts of the Loma Linda University Church says healthy living is dictated straight from the scripture.
"In Corinthians, Paul speaking of the human body says specifically, 'you are the temple of the Holy spirit,'" explains Roberts. "Therefore, he says, whatever you do in your body, you do it to the honor, the glory and the praise of God."
He says the church has not taken an official position on the McDonald's controversy, but stands for living "a balanced, healthy, and whole lifestyle."
Dr. Wayne Dysinger, a physician of preventative medicine and a Loma Linda resident, is a leading member of the community coalition that opposes McDonald's. He says it is not just about the burgers and fries on McDonald's' menu, but also about what the fast food chain represents to Loma Linda's residents who cherish the community's health-conscious history.
"Loma Linda is sort of a symbolic city for healthiness, and McDonald's is sort of a symbolism of unhealthiness," said Dysinger, a Seventh-Day Adventist and father of two. "That's a significant issue. My kids know about McDonald's. McDonald's is the one that sells the toys."
In response to the community opposition, McDonald's said in a statement to ABC News:
"We have been working hard over the past several years to ensure we have options on our menu to meet a variety of dietary needs. For example, our line of Premium Salads can be ordered without meat. We also have other offerings including Apple Slices, Oatmeal and Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits as well as a variety of portion sizes... McDonald's and our franchisee look forward to working with the Loma Linda City Council and residents to hopefully address any questions or concerns. We believe the new restaurant will support the Loma Linda community with a contemporary dining experience and help fuel economic growth."
McDonald's won't exactly be the first fast food chain in town. Though several health food stores are popular with residents, in recent years a handful of chains have arrived, including a KFC, Del Taco, Weinerschnitzel, Baker's Burger, and most notably a Carl's Jr., which also came under intense fire when it first moved in.
Caught in the middle between the health food advocates and the burger eating population, as well as the land developers and those who welcome business growth, is Loma Linda Mayor Rhodes Rigsby.
A Seventh-Day Adventist and a physician himself, Rigsby says he has the desire to promote health, but doesn't feel limiting food choices is an appropriate mandate.
"I don't think it's the government's responsibility, personally, to legislate vegetarianism; I think if everyone became a vegetarian they would probably have a healthier life, but it has to be their choice," he said.
"I would hate to go to a town where vegetables are outlawed because the majority are meat and potato carnivores," he continued, "to me that doesn't make sense either way; I think people should have options."
Dysinger admitted, "I agree that we don't want to legislate health, but on the other hand, we can create healthy environments or we can be oblivious to healthy environments. I believe we have to do everything we can to create a healthy environment."
Mayor Rigsby said that if the citizens of Loma Linda want to ban further fast food development, a ballot initiative enabling residents to vote on the issue might be an acceptable approach going forward.
The small city is a particularly unusual battleground, considering the first McDonald's opened in 1940, just five miles away in the town of San Bernardino. Now the country's most iconic fast food chain has over 33,000 locations worldwide in 199 countries around the globe.
Even though Loma Linda's city council approved the McDonald's development, the residents who are fighting it say it's not a done deal yet. Dysinger said there is enough community opposition that he believes the council will want to reconsider their decision.
"We're continuing to work on this with the developer directly," he said. "We have other restaurants that we feel would be much healthier than McDonald's that we'd like to bring in…we'll do what we can to not have McDonald's in Loma Linda."
MCDONALD'S FULL STATEMENT
"McDonald's wants to be a good neighbor in the communities we serve. We have been working hard over the past several years to ensure we have options on our menu to meet a variety of dietary needs. For example, our line of Premium Salads can be ordered without meat. We also have other offerings including Apple Slices, Oatmeal and Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits as well as a variety of portion sizes.
"The City of Loma Linda approved this development for several uses, including the McDonald's restaurant. McDonald's and our franchisee look forward to working with the Loma Linda City Council and residents to hopefully address any questions or concerns. We believe the new restaurant will support the Loma Linda community with a contemporary dining experience and help fuel economic growth."
This discussion and it's participants are officially put on notice that all poor treatment of other members must stop. We MUST treat our brothers and sisters with the love of our Savior. The problems seen in this discussion are all ones where the member makes personal statements about another member. They don't stick to the issue at hand, they make a value judgement about another person. They leap to conclusions that they simply cannot know without being God. They then disparage the other member based on these often false conclusions. Our Site Rules and Guidelines make this forbidden behavior. Why? Because we as sinners cannot adequately judge another sinner. We can only see the outward appearance. And treating others in any manner other than with pure Christ-like love is sure to cloud the image of our beautiful Savior. If you are getting poor responses, then you almost certainly have not shown Christ-like love.
Here are examples from this discussion of what must cease. The following statements all break rules 4, 5, and 6:
"I do know that its typical of humans to see faults in others that they hate and deny of themselves, this is typical of a person that doesn't know forgiveness. I wonder if that might describe why you would make such a comment ??"
"You have only shifting sand under your feet on this issue Gab, I'm afraid."
"Who is it exactly that you are trying to deceive??"
"...you have done NOTHING but come in the Spirit of Satan....take that elsewhere and leave. Your self-righteous spirit has done more to create confusion to almost every discussion you become a part of."...
It is clear those statements have no place in conversation with other believers. PLEASE Brothers and Sisters, read our Site Rules and Guidelines again. They are there to help us always uplift Christ to all we interact with.
May God bless and have mercy on us all.
Can the McDonald's chain do something regarding the SALT CONTENT of their various offers? I rarely eat out, because I have chosen a "low salt" diet for my style of dining at home. The french fries is too salty for me. This is a personnal choice, and now, at 78 years of age, I do not have any "maintenance medications" to control the blood pressure. The McD burgers are ALL to salty for my taste. Can something be done in its food preparation so that the salt content of the food items choices be "bland" but salt shakers be made available for those whose tongues may prefer more salt. Is this change possible through management principles at McDo's?
As I have said earlier, I rarely eat out. But I have felt that McDo's a "lesser evil" choice for one whose salt intake is similar to mine. Just "SPEAKING OUT MY PERSONAL CHOICE". Here in my country Philippines, too much salt seem the general rule among fast food chains.
I do not know about McDonald's, but I know that Burger King puts salt on fries after they are cooked....Some franchises do not even put it on at all and will let you get a salt packet to suit personal taste.
Here is McDonald's Nutrition List: