Unsuspecting weight watchers may have been duped by nutrition labels at the world’s largest fast-food chain, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest is taking McDonald’s to task.

McDonald’s Web site offered nutrition information for a 90-gram ice cream cone, which supposedly had 150 calories and three grams of fat.

But CSPI found “two sizes on sale in Washington, D.C., and even the smaller size exceeded McDonald’s official size by 49 percent, averaging 134 grams.” CSPI noted on its Web site that the average “small” cone actually had 225 calories and 4.5 grams of saturated fat, or 22 percent of the recommended daily value for saturated fat.

“The larger ice cream cones purchased by CSPI exceeded McDonald’s lone listed size by 99 percent, averaging 179 grams,” CSPI reported. “The average large ice cream cone would have twice the calories and fat of the size listed on the McDonald’s web site. The six grams of saturated fat in a large McDonald’s reduced-fat ice cream cone would provide about 30 percent of the Daily Value of saturated fat.”

McDonald’s has been under pressure from various health groups to make nutritional information available at its restaurants, according to CBC News, a Canadian news source. McDonald’s instead has directed consumers to its Web site.

According to the McDonald’s Web site, large fries have 540 calories and 26 grams of fat, while a quarter-pounder with cheese has 530 calories and 30 grams of fat.

CBC News reported that the fast-food chain recently decided to print nutritional information on its food packages in the United Kingdom. Now it is receiving criticism for not doing the same in North America, where obesity rates for children have tripled over the past 30 years.

“This would present a real problem for dieters who are trying to avoid obesity or heart disease, and are relying solely on McDonald’s web site for accurate nutrition information,” CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson said in a release on the organization’s Web site. “It’s surprising that a major restaurant chain would provide such inaccurate information.”

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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