McDonald’s: Stop Including Toys with Junk Food

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has sent McDonald’s a letter stating their intent to sue if McDonald’s continues packaging their food products with toys in order to sell them to children. They say promoting their foods to children with toys violates consumer protection laws in Massachusetts, Texas, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and California.

According to CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, “regardless of the nutritional quality of what’s being sold, the practice of tempting kids with toys is inherently deceptive.”

Food companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on toy giveaways for children. Childhood obesity is an epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control has reported children and adolescents who are obese are more likely to become obese adults. Obese children are more at risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Where are those food companies when a child is diagnosed with diabetes? The strategic advertisement and manipulation of children is widespread. When a big animated movie is launched, toys based on the characters are sometimes available at fast food restaurants, with “special” deals, like buying a hamburger and fries coming with free toys from the movie.

My friend used to say his young children would scream like crazy every time he drove somewhere and passed a McDonald’s. Of course, that is the response some companies want, because captive audiences spend large amounts of money. Children have positive emotions associated with toys, because they get them on their birthdays and at Christmas. They already feel good about toys, and are likely to want more, so it only seems natural for them to want the fast food they come with.

Do these tactics sound familiar? Reynolds tobacco company used their Joe Camel campaign for years to make smoking seem more favorable to youth. Getting children to form a habit early on, can mean large revenues, “As Reynolds has known for decades, 90 percent of adult smokers become addicted as kids, and the younger a child begins to smoke, the likelier the child is to become a regular smoker.” It appears a similar strategy might be at work with junk food.

CSPI says Happy Meals now come in 24 different combinations. They also say a basic Happy Meal has two days of sugar for a child, if you use the RDA for children 4-8 years old. What child can resist a lot of sugar and free toys?

Image Credit: Maurice Svay

Related Links
Petition to End Childhood Obesity
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes


Jo S2 years ago

I agree with Will R.
Thanks Jake.

ERIKA S4 years ago

thank you for sharing

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

Will is right.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

That should be banned.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

If they hadn't introduced toys into the equation they would have probably died as a business. The food by itself wasn't enough to bring the kids in. ...Marketing genius!

Joe R.
Joe R5 years ago

Such unhealthy food. Avoid it.

Faith Billingham
Faith Billingham6 years ago

great article, thanks for sharing :)

Joy E.
Joy E.6 years ago

My 5-year old granddaughter keeps begging to go to McDonalds for Happy Meals because she wants the latest toy. What should we do? She is only five and does not understand what's wrong with consuming the junk that is in McDonald's foods and beverages. She has no idea what the food and drinks are doing to her body. After getting non-alcoholic fatty liver due to consuming too many foods and beverages containing HFCS, I do. But how can I convince a 5-year old that "Happy" Meals sold by clowns are detrimental to her health?

Raven Montgomery
Raven Montgomery7 years ago

I think the point here is that there should not be marketing geared towards children. That kind of emotional manipulation can be damaging to more sensitive children and can put a serious strain on relationships with parents. I am sure there are many parents and children who cope just fine but I find this practice of advertising to children who cannot actually buy something themselves and manipulating them reprehensible. I would like to see advertising directed to children abandoned all together.

Debbie Valenta
Debbie Valenta7 years ago

The environmental reasoning is what I can get behind. But you can't control your kid from ranting about a Happy Meal? That just tells me you never should have become a parent in the first place. I can count on the fingers of ONE hand, the number of times my parents gave in and took me to McDonalds when I was a kid.