Saturday, December 18, 2010

Can You Blame McDonald's??

Is it really Ronald and his team?  The Center for Science in Public Interest (CSPI) thinks so.  Earlier this week CSPI filed a lawsuit against the fast food giant claiming that it is in violation of California's consumer protection laws, as it targets children under 8 years old with the ever lucrative "Happy Meal" and the toy it contains.  The organization alleges that these kids do not have the ability to understand advertising stating that, "It's unfair to kids, they are being totally manipulated, and it's unfair to parents." 

The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of the parents.  One of the parents being represented says, "I object to the fact that McDonald's is getting into my kids' heads without my permission and actually changing what they want to eat."  Okay, let's stop right there.

I don't know about you, but I don't think there are too many kids, under 8 years old, rolling into McDonald's ordering and paying for a "Happy Meal" by themselves.  I may be wrong but I'm fairly confident.  So who's really to blame here.  Yes, it's true that kids see the commercials for McDonald's and want the 'toy' and the "Happy Meal", but is it really any different than advertisements for other toys and food products?  Let's say that during Saturday morning cartoons a 6 year old sees a commercial for legos and decides that he/she wants them.  The child goes to Walmart with mom or dad, sees the legos and (this is going to be a shocker...) begs his/her parent to buy them.  We're talking crying, yelling, making a scene here - you know you've seen it.  Based on my own experiences, (thanks mom), and observations it is HIGHLY unlikely that this child will be taking the legos home today.  How is this different than a plea to go to McDonald's?  Is it not ultimately the parents' decision as to whether or not the car stops there?  And, again I'm going to go out on a limb here but my guess is that the same parents buying a "Happy Meal" for their child are also ordering a #3 with a Coke for themselves.

It's a classic example of "monkey see - monkey do".  Children learn from their parents or guardians and it is ultimately the holder of the keys and wallet that makes the decision.  Now deciding against a stop at the Golden Arches may end in tears and an upset child - but I'm fairly certain it won't result in death.  Studies have shown that a child's diet is largely influenced by that of his/her parents and his/her food environment. Here is an example of one such study.  I wrote an entire paper on this in college - it's not an isolated case...

Now, I am in no way a fast food advocate and I could honestly care less if McDonald's loses a few million dollars, but I do question where the responsibility lies.  Think about it.  Whose side are you on?  Who is ultimately responsible for making the decision?  If it's the child, things have sure changed since I was growing up.  I don't have kids of my own, but I know I won't be taking my niece and nephew out for "Happy Meals" anytime soon.  If you are a parent I challenge you to step up and take responsibility, set a positive example for your children and remember that it doesn't include ordering up a #3 with a Coke.



  1. You can go to McD's and buy the toy by itself, too. They've always offered the toy for $1, no other purchase necessary. So get your rugrat a toy, a water, and a little grilled chicken salad next time Ronald McDonald "controls" your kid's mind......

    Oh, and while CSPI is at it, why not sue cereal makers, Cracker Jack, etc for giving toys with cereal, and advertising on kids TV like nobody's business. Or music downloads given away with soda, same tactic.

    PLUS CSPI is the same vegan organization that successfully got all fast food joints to stop using healthy tallow and ushered in a 25 year reign of horror that is industrial trans fats in cooking. We need a class action suit against CSPI for this holocaust of trans fats!

  2. As a mom of two, you are 100% responsible for what your child eats! These fat parents w/ fat kids need to stop blaming fast food! Because they buy crappy stuff at the grocery store too! Are they going to sue the grocery store too? Their lack of discipline and want for instant gratification is pathetic! Sorry I am just so sick of others not taking personal responsibility......

  3. Okay. I agree that ultimately it is the parents' responsibility to provide nutritious meals for their children and to say no when appropriate. However, there is a disturbing trend toward marketing to children that I think we should pay attention to. I highly recommend the book "Branded" which talks about the psychology behind marketing and how corporations are marketing to younger and younger children. (Have you seen the Toyota commercial starring children? This is done with purpose, not to be cute.) In the book, the author talks about a visit to a corporate seminar on marketing to children and how to increase the "nag factor." The goal is to create brand loyalty before a child hits puberty. My own kids tell me "facts" like the AT&T network is terrible, we should switch to Verizon. What?!? And my kids are only allowed to watch television once or twice a month. I think it is inappropriate to market to a segment of the population that is unable to discern fact from fiction, does not have an income, and is easily persuaded. Is a lawsuit the answer? I really don't know.

  4. Just stumbled on your blog through a post on the Everyday Paleo facebook page. I am new to the world of paleo and honestly I can't believe I waited so long to get off the low fat/low carb/binge on cupcakes and chips thing I have been doing for years upon years. I just wanted to say thank you for putting this information out there for those of us that are paleo infants, in a way that is easy for anyone to follow!

  5. BRAVO! My thoughts exactly. It's not only McDonald's doing this and it's not a new marketing ploy either. People need to be responsible for the choices that they make

  6. CSPI was respnsible for changing the way Mcdonalds and every other fast food place makes their french fries. From lard to shortening. From a natural saturated fat to a high transfat substitute.

  7. These are the same people that will stop us from being able to enjoy raw milk from wholesome farmers because "it's not good for you". Oh, wait. They've done that alrady.

    We need to stop these groups that take away personal choice (and with it responsibility) and leave governmental control behind.

  8. Amy, another great post. Right you are. I do believe that the parents need to step it up a bit and actually "parent" their kids. Just the other day, my girlfriend said to her crying kicking kid as she was leaving my house..."oh, sweetie, would it make it all better if mommy got you a happy meal?" and he stopped crying and snuggled his face into her neck. WOW, I was taken back by that. But I see it all the time, good for you to write a post on that. Best - Jo

  9. Wasn't it the CSPI that made them change to transfats for cooking from beef fat in the late 70's. If they keep moving the target as to what is healthy, they must have another adgenda.