Just recently, Childhood Obesity News discussed public schools — the celebration of holidays in them, the bringing of treats to them, and the holding of bake sales to financially support them. What has not yet been mentioned is the Happy Meal fundraiser. That’s right, McDonald’s has encroached on the educational life of the children of America. Here are words from someone called “Steelersfan,” about school fundraising:
It is a tab coupon book that sells for $5… There are 3 Mickey D’s coupons in the ones my daughter is selling for her pre-school currently. Buy one get one happy meal, buy one get one big mac and buy one get one extra value meal… It also has local pizza shop coupons, other fast food coupons…
“Steelersfan” tells us what a great investment these coupon books are, but he’s not factoring in the doctor bills, down the road, for the diabetes or the bariatric surgery.
Almost a year ago, public health lawyer Michele Simon wrote a piece called “Why the Happy Meal is a Crime — and Not Just a Culinary One.” She explains the First Amendment and several other law-related concepts, in connection with the lawsuit filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The aim was to stop McDonald’s from putting toys in Happy Meals. She said:
… [A]t the federal and state levels, the law requires that advertisers not engage in deceptive marketing… The key legal terms here are ‘deceptive’ and ‘unfair.’ … Ample science, along with statements by various professional organizations tells us that marketing to young children is both deceptive and unfair. Why? Because young children simply do not have the cognitive capacity to understand that they are being marketed to; they cannot comprehend ‘persuasive intent,’ the linchpin of advertising.
Earlier this month, Simon explained how Mickey D continues to irritate those who would prefer to reduce the childhood obesity rate. First of all, even though we keep hearing about the supposed ban on Happy Meal toys in San Francisco, the ordinance doesn’t really amount to much. Apparently, the only thing forbidden is to give the toys away. Basically, the people behind the counter will simply ask parents if they want to pay ten cents extra to have the toy included. Big whoop.
Simon enumerates many of the ways in which McDonald’s has overstepped the bounds of decency, given the corporation’s promise to police itself (and also lists seven ways to push back). This isn’t just her talking. The research on McDonald’s failure to regulate its own behavior was done by Yale University’s Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity. Simon writes:
As I see it, voluntary pledges are a dismal failure. Only better laws enforced over time will change the behavior of companies like McDonald’s. And when advocates do get laws passed to protect kids, McDonald’s will keep trying to avoid them.
From the “Sympathy for the Devil” department, Charlotte Knight speaks of the McScapegoat, and says stern words to moms and dads who:
… blame their own poor nutritional judgment for their kids on a restaurant, like as if they thought day after day of nothing but McNuggets and french fries was actually supposed to be good for their perfect little angels… You’re the parent. Start acting like one.
But Simon has an answer for that too, which she obtained from the litigation director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Steve Gardner:
His answer was simple and elegant: ‘Just because it’s possible for a parent to intervene doesn’t change the fact that what McDonald’s is doing is illegal.’ In other words, there are often many ways that parents can act to protect their children but that doesn’t make it OK for others to break the law.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Comment,” 2coolfishing.com, 01/19/11
Source: “Why the Happy Meal is a Crime — and Not Just a Culinary One,” Civil Eats, 01/25/11
Source: “Toying with the Happy Meal: Is McDonald’s Evading the Law?,” Food Safety News, 12/06/11
Source: “Found a McScapegoat, and yes, we’re lovin’ it,” The Daily Titan, 11/09/11
Image by Stellar 678 (Steven Lybeck), used under its Creative Commons license.