Ronald McDonald is in trouble again.
The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) served McDonald’s with notice of its intent to sue over “unfair and deceptive marketing” by using toys to “lure small children into McDonald’s.”
CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner said, “McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children. McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity—all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.”
McDonald’s is currently promoting toys from the current Shrek movie. This suit is unrelated to the recent recall of Shrek drinking glasses.
The June 22 letter to McDonald’s also states, “McDonald’s duplicitous approach to marketing directed to children can be seen in a recent press release that boasts that the company’s Shrek-based promotion will ‘encourage kids to ‘Shrek Out’ their Happy Meals around the world with menu options like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and fruit juices.’ In reality, though, the whole point of the Shrek promotion is to get kids into McDonald’s where they most likely will end up being served unhealthy default options and eating unhealthy meals.”
According to CSPI, The Federal Trade Commission will be releasing a set of voluntary standards for food marketers later this year. A 2008 FTC report says that food companies spend more than $350 million on toy giveaways each year.
Reuters quotes McDonald’s spokesman William Whitman as calling the charges a “misrepresentation” of its effort to sell healthier food and safe toys. “Getting a toy is just one part of a fun, family experience at McDonald’s.”
I’m not a fan of fast food. I’m definitely against a steady diet of fast food for children. Food is fuel for the body and we should respect our bodies enough to fuel them properly. After all, we’ve got to live in them.
As naive as it sounds, I wish that corporations would take it upon themselves to act responsibly in the interest of public health, especially where children are concerned. The realist in me knows better.
Whatever the outcome of any legal battle over McDonald’s practices, we adults must take to the battlefield. Not the battlefield of the courtroom, but the battlefield personal responsibility.
While fast food may be marketed toward children, adults are the prime example and authority in children’s lives.
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Image used under Creative Commons License with thanks to Adam NFK Smith