McDonald's is removing artificial preservatives from its US Chicken McNuggets, its most popular menu item, and making a host of other changes to its food in a bid to attract consumers looking for healthier, less-processed fare.

The world's biggest restaurant chain will cut high-fructose corn syrup out of its buns and remove artificial preservatives from breakfast foods like sausages and scrambled eggs, McDonald's U.S. President Mike Andres said at the company's headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, on Monday.

A McDonald's NZ spokeswoman said New Zealand McNuggets already do not contain artificial colours, preservatives or flavours and the buns are free of fructose corn syrup.

The moves in the US advance McDonald's efforts to provide the healthier food options that consumers are increasingly seeking out. The Big Mac seller said last year that it would start introducing cage-free eggs in its almost 16,000 restaurants across the U.S. and Canada in the next decade. McDonald's also began using a combination of greens -- including romaine, spinach and kale - that were more nutritious than the iceberg lettuce it had previously used.


"If it matters to our customers, it matters to us," Andres said.

McDonald's shares rose 0.1 percent to $117.76 at 12:22 p.m. in New York. The stock was little changed this year through the end of last week.

The menu adjustments continue a string of major changes that Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook has made since taking the helm in March 2015. He has eliminated jobs, started selling off company-owned locations to franchisees and announced plans to move McDonald's headquarters to downtown Chicago. The restaurants are now exploring new ingredients like fresh-never-frozen beef, as well as a new egg McMuffin recipe.

Yet Easterbrook's most dramatic initiative was getting McDonald's restaurants to sell breakfast items all day long. While that plan helped pull the company out of a multiyear sales slump, its effect may be wearing off. McDonald's domestic same-store sales gains slowed to 1.8 percent last quarter, compared with 5.4 percent in the prior quarter. Analysts had expected a 3.2 percent increase.