The Center for Science in The Public Interest (CSPI), which is a Washington-based non-profit consumer health advocacy group, threatened to file a lawsuit this past Tuesday towards the mega-corporation McDonald’s. The CSPI is charging the fast food chain with “unfairly and deceptively” marketing their toys in Happy Meals to its intended audience; our children.
CSPI’s Stephen Gardner wrote to the heads of McDonald’s stating explicitly that “McDonald’s marketing has the effect of conscripting America’s children into an unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers, causing them to nag their parents to bring them to McDonald’s.” What does this statement mean exactly? Happy Meals make kid’s happy right? And if kid’s are happy, parents are happy? Everything’s fine and dandy right? Well it is, unless of course you are concerned with your child’s health later in life.
McDonald’s Vice President of communications, William Whitman responded by saying in a public statement that the company “couldn’t disagree more” with CSPI’s assertion that their toys violate any laws. (Please note here that nothing whatsoever says anything about the food being served in the Happy Meal, the argument is towards the use of toys to attract children.) The spokesperson for McDonald’s stated “We are proud of our Happy Meal, which gives our customers wholesome food and toy’s of the highest quality and safety.” Ok, HOLD it right here. Before we go any further on this article let’s look at this statement a little closer. Particularly, let’s examine the phrase “wholesome”. Wholesome as defined by the Webster’s Dictionary 2010 Edition, states that the word is an adjective which means promoting or conducive to good health or well-being/ tending to improve the mind or character/ and characterized by health and vigor of mind and body. Hmm… Now if we look at the word “wholesome” again, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that kids Happy Meal’s are “wholesome” in any way. In fact, they seem to be the exact opposite. Take for instance the Chicken McNuggets that are the common menu “option” chosen in a kids Happy Meal.
Chicken McNuggets have large amounts of additives, dough conditioners, stabilizers, flours and “natural” flavorings added to make them taste better. (Alot of these so-called “natural” flavorings are created at a chemical plant off the NJ turnpike/ More on this topic later!). So when McDonald’s says that their Chicken McNuggets are made from 100% white meat, they aren’t necessarily lying. They are also made with 100% super refined/super processed/super artificial ingredients like the breading on the top of the nugget. Please watch this short 2 minute video below to see what is really in most chicken nugget’s. If you have a weak stomach, you may want to skip this video!
Now, you tell me if you think a kid’s Happy Meal is “wholesome” after reading the above definition and watching the short video. The statement in question by the McDonald’s spokesperson clearly illustrates that their company does not have a clue as to how the poor quality foods they sell negatively affect our children. Then there is the toy in question which is what the lawsuit is based over in the first place. This is not the first time companies have used clever marketing to sell more of their products. Companies like Disney World and Kellogg have been doing it for years because they know that it works.
I really don’t think McDonald’s sales would have topped $70 Billion dollars in 2009(this is not a typo) had the fast food franchise not implemented the use of toys in their Happy Meals more than two decades prior. But is McDonald’s doing anything wrong here by enticing America’s children by placing toy’s in their kids meals? We can all remember when Camel cigarettes used the Cool Camel to sell more of their product. Camel ultimately lost a lawsuit and had to remove the use of the Cool Camel in its marketing efforts. The big question here is, “Will the same thing happen to McDonald’s if this lawsuit hits the fan?” The banning of children’s toys may be just the thing America needs to help curb childhood obesity. Afterall, the most recognized fictitious character by today’s youth is Santa Clause; a close second, Ronald McDonald!