The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of a Sacramento Mom against McDonald’s, claiming the fast food giant engages in “the unfair, unlawful, deceptive and fraudulent practice of promoting and advertising McDonald’s Happy Meal products to very young California children, using the inducement of various toys.”
Of course Monet Parham (Mom and Plaintiff) knows that she can simply say “No” when her two kids demand a Happy Meal, and likely anticipated a backlash from media and parents suggesting she do just that. But like a gazillion working parents, she is sick and tired of having to say no over and over again. If not for McDonald’s “Neuromarketing” (yep, that’s what they call it, getting into your kid’s head) she probably wouldn’t mind them having a Happy Meal now and then.
But McDonald’s aggressive marketing tactics have got to be reigned in. Any corporation that has so much impact on a child’s health must also have a moral responsibility to ensure they are serving healthy food and not paving the way for toddlers to become obese before they turn into teenagers.
A lot of thought—which spells mega-profit—is behind the marketing of Happy Meal toys. According to the CSPI lawsuit, QSR (quick service restaurant) magazine quoted Roy Bergold, McDonald’s chief creative officer for 29 years, as saying “Go after kids,” when describing the company’s strategy. “Ray Kroc said that if you had $1 to spend on marketing, spend it on kids. Why? Because they can’t get to your restaurant by themselves and they eat a lot.” In another article—same magazine—he said that “companies have found that kids are a lot more tempted by the toys than the food.” Martin Lindstrom, who advises McDonald’s on branding and “neuromarketing,” said that McDonald’s “gets into the parents’ wallets via the kids’ minds.”
So why can’t McDonald’s dish out Happy Meal toys with healthy meals? I’m not an extremist; I’m not thinking carrot sticks and brown rice burgers. But stop serving additives such as BHA, BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE, and BHT, or BUTYLATED HYDROXYTOLUENE: both are used to prevent oils (particularly those used in frying) from going rancid. BHA is considered to be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” And then there’s TBHQ, or TERT-BUTYLHYDROQUINONE , which is used as an antioxidant for unsaturated vegetable oils and animal fats. In high doses, TBHQ led to stomach tumors and DNA damage in lab animals, and prolonged exposure to TBHQ can lead to cancer. But wait, there’s more! Sodium- and tetrasodium pyrophosphate, is a “slightly toxic” food additive used as a thickening agent. How toxic? Why is this product used?
Additive spells Addictive! So the kids will keep coming back for more…
Not only that, the Big Mac, cheeseburger and quarter pounder with cheese contain a preservative discovered to worsen hyperactivity in young kids. This is a quote from McDonald’s (Note how they leave out certain information):
“At McDonald’s, what we leave out of our food is as important as what we put into it. The additives used in McDonald’s foods are those already included by the supplier to maintain quality, and fall entirely within guidelines set by the Department of Health. Similar additives are found in most foods sold through retail outlets and in other restaurants.”
Here is the overall nutrition in a Happy Meal:
Small French Fries
1% Low Fat Chocolate Milk
Total Calories: 700, Fat (g) 27, Saturated Fat (g) 9, Trans Fat (g) 1, Cholesterol (mg) 45, Sodium (mg) 1060, Carbs (g) 88
If it takes a class action lawsuit to make McDonald’s more accountable, count me in!