Coronavirus Chronicles — Ethnic Implications Again

Many medical professionals use social media to communicate with the world, especially with their colleagues in other countries, and with ordinary citizens, too. Dr. Jagadish J. Hiremath, who lives and practices in India, wrote:

Social distancing is a privilege. It means you live in a house large enough to practise it. Hand washing is a privilege too. It means you have access to running water. Hand sanitisers are a privilege. It means you have money to buy them.

Lockdowns are a privilege. It means you can afford to be at home. Most of the ways to ward off Corona are accessible only to the affluent.

The United States is no different. About a year ago, Margaret Flowers wrote,

Cities across the country are beginning to recognize that racism is a public health issue. On top of that, social determinants such as wealth inequality, access to housing and education and discrimination in the workplace, as well as other factors, also impact health…

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed this disparity in a stark way — black people are being infected at higher rates, are experiencing more severe disease and are more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people. This is a systemic problem, not a biological one.

The existence of the virus has changed the entire landscape of societal relationships, casting a bright light on some areas that have been under-illuminated.

Just a few months earlier, in mid-June, a kneeling and chanting demonstration was held in Boise, Idaho by hundreds of demonstrators (described by the press as mostly masked), whose talking point was that racism itself represents a public health crisis. Medical student Devin Gaskins gave a talk that included the line, “My pre-existing condition was being born Black in America.”

Also last fall, in Mississippi, the virus struck about one-tenth of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which had only around 10,000 members to begin with. There were more than 80 fatalities. The tribal membership accounts for only 18% of the residents in their county, over half the county’s virus cases have occurred among its members, along with 64% of the COVID deaths.

The lost people were of course primarily relatives and friends, but they were also vital components of the tribe’s collective memory, who had preserved arts and crafts, stories, and the ancient language. Additionally, Mark Walker wrote for The New York Times,

The Navajo Nation, the country’s largest reservation, has recorded at least 560 deaths — a tally larger than the coronavirus-related deaths in 13 states and a death rate higher than every state… In Arizona, Native Americans account for 11 percent of the virus-related deaths despite making up 5 percent of the population. And in Wyoming, Native Americans have accounted for nearly 30 percent of the coronavirus deaths.

According to the Indian Health Service, its ability to help and care for the 2.2 million people who make up the country’s tribal population has been constantly hindered by the lack of modern facilities, beds and equipment, supplies, and medical personnel.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “@Kaalateetham,” Twitter.com, 03/23/20
Source: “Let’s Talk about Racism and Health,” PopularResistance.org, 09/26/20
Source: “Health care workers rally against anti-blackness at Idaho capitol,” IdahoPress.com, 06/20/20
Source: “‘A Devastating Blow’: Virus Kills 81 Members of Native American Tribe,” NYTimes.com, 10/08/20
Image by Marcel Oosterwijk/CC BY-SA 2.0

Coronavirus Chronicles: Combatting the Superantigens?

Q: For a child, what could be worse than having COVID-19?
A: Having it and apparently recovering; and then, within weeks, learning that this chapter of the story is not over.

Imagine being the parent of a daughter or son who tests positive, and is sick for a while, and gets better. Then one day there is a fever, or a rash, or blisters, or vomiting, or diarrhea, or eyelids that are puffy and/or red; or blue fingers, swollen hands, blue lips, or what doctors used to call “total body pain,” or the inability to walk.

With Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (or MIS-C for short) the number of potential responses is not yet known. So many possibilities exist because its basic nature is to affect any body part of its choosing. One explanation, writes Liz Szabo, is that some viruses produce toxins that contain “superantigens,” which…

[…] bypass the body’s normal safeguards and attach directly to T cells. That allows superantigens to activate 20% to 30% of T cells at once, generating a dangerous swarm of white blood cells and inflammatory proteins called cytokines…

And this is what causes the extreme and seemingly random inflammation. Of course, after the first symptoms, it can get worse, progressing to more than one type of heart dysfunction and other undesirable outcomes, including aneurysms and bleeding from the nose, mouth, and eyes. One by one the organs give up, and then comes brain death.

New and frightening outcomes

Earlier this year, the median age for getting the syndrome was nine years. The condition is only MIS-C in the pediatric demographic (infancy to age 20). After that, it is MIS-A for adults, and yes, that happens. Imagine being a child with a parent suffering through MIS-A, unable to do the parent things.

Lately, the kids get sicker than we have been accustomed to seeing, including many who manifested few symptoms from the original case of COVID-19. For The New York Times, Pam Belluck described a 15-year-old boy who stuck pretty close to home and caught the virus, and then MIS-C, anyway. She mentioned an 11-year-old star soccer player who lost at least a year of sport, and a 15-year-old who “needed a procedure that functioned as a temporary pacemaker.”

Another young teen, described as overweight but active, suffered severe multisystem organ failure, meaning lungs, heart, and kidneys. The sickness puts kids on all kinds of meds:

Doctors said they’ve learned effective treatments, which, besides steroids, immunoglobulin and blood thinners, can include blood pressure medications, an immunomodulator called anakinra and supplemental oxygen.

More than 5,200 of the 6.2 million U.S. children diagnosed with COVID have developed MIS-C. About 80% of MIS-C patients are treated in intensive care units, 20% require mechanical ventilation, and 46 have died.

It seems odd to be told that scientists “don’t know exactly what causes it” or that “most children who develop MISC-C were previously healthy.” They previously had COVID-19, which is not a condition of health. The causal relationship seems obvious, even if the mechanism is not.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “COVID-Linked Syndrome in Children Is Growing and Cases Are More Severe,” Medium.com, 02/17/21
Source: “Scientists Search for Cause of Mysterious COVID-Related Inflammation in Children,” Truthout.org. 10/20/21
Image by Jernej Furman/CC BY 2.0

Coronavirus Chronicles — Ethnic Implications, Continued

Because COVID-19 seems to have a special affinity for fat cells, a lot of children who catch the disease are overweight or obese already. A considerably larger number of young survivors are on track to experience significant health consequences in the future. Even a child who does not carry excess weight may suffer from enough COVID after-effects to render them unable or unwilling to move around much or pay attention to their diets.

Some people say the number of children who have died from COVID-19 is so small as to be statistically insignificant. Compared to other plagues, maybe it is. On the other hand, with such matters as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) and Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (long COVID) hovering on the horizon, the point is worth making again: Obesity and the virus work together constantly, to the detriment of our children.

As we have seen, this is especially true of Hispanic, Black, Native American, and other groups. Some reasons why this happens are clear; others are disputed. What is obvious is that obese kids need to be protected from the virus, and that pediatric Coronavirus patients need to be protected from after-effects that cause a slide into weight issues that will be very difficult to recover from.

Lost in translation

We saw how diligently the corporations strive to have their messages translated for the audiences they are “targeting.” There are experts, part translator and part psychologist, who specialize in this field. Ironically, the efforts of junk-food advertisers are more impactful than public-service messages urging anti-COVID measures. Salud-America.org says,

Unfortunately, Latinos make up a very low percentage of those getting a vaccine, despite being disproportionately hurt by COVID-19.

At least a portion of the resistance is caused by the absence or inadequacy of bilingual health news, which can lead to an information gap large enough to allow some Spanish speakers to report that they never heard of the vaccine. Who can blame minorities for being suspicious? We have seen how many Black Americans have unsatisfactory and upsetting experiences with the health care system.

There are longstanding inequalities that align with racial differences. The Navajo Nation’s plight is a prime example. We all know by now that one of the greatest ways to protect ourselves from the disease is to wash our hands frequently. For people living with no water except what they bring in on a truck, this is an impossible expectation.

The privatization of water systems, and water systems run for profit rather than for the greater good, and many other factors, work to exacerbate the injustice and increase the likelihood of many more children enduring bad health outcomes.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Latinos Vaccinated for COVID-19 at Far Lower Rates than White People,” Salud-America.org, 06/01/21
Image by Centers for Disease Control/Fair Use

Coronavirus Chronicles — Ethnic Implications

The recent topic here has been how Latino and other ethnic communities are “targeted,” and disproportionately affected, by McDonald’s and its fellow fast-food corporations. Why is that so crucial at this particular time? Because COVID-19 also disproportionately targets these exact populations, and adding obesity to the equation is a recipe for disaster.

Of course, quick-service restaurants are not the only problem. Like many others, journalist Catarina Moura adds that the nationwide rise in childhood obesity is partly attributable to the virus,

[…] which has resulted in an increase in food insecurity — or the inability to afford healthy foods… The pandemic also disrupted the food supply chain and dramatically changed what was available in stores. Finally, loss of jobs meant loss of income, forcing parents to change their shopping habits and increasingly rely on non-perishable foods… Structural racism also played a role.

Dr. Sabrina Strings discussed the contemporary link between obesity and the pandemic, a co-dependency that she believes scientists are unable to sufficiently explain. She also dissects the racial origins of fatphobia, referencing the “cultural narrative that black people’s weight is a harbinger of disease and death.” These capsulized but suggestive phrases convey the gist:

Even before Covid-19, black Americans had higher rates of multiple chronic illnesses and a lower life expectancy than white Americans, regardless of weight… People’s bodies have been labeled congenitally diseased and undeserving of access to lifesaving treatments… I learned about guidelines suggesting that doctors may use existing health conditions, including obesity, to deny or limit eligibility to lifesaving coronavirus treatments…

Dr. Strings suggests that, adding insult to injury, people with low-paying jobs, who have no choice but to work, are being held responsible for their own vulnerability and blamed for exposing themselves to contagion.

Diabetes and more

Diabetes, a condition that often accompanies obesity, has always been a problematic result of the fast-food habit, especially among the Latino and Black populations. Of course, this is not limited to either to those groups or to the USA. A headline from yesterday reads, “Most Covid-19 deaths in Malaysia linked to diabetes and hypertension, says health ministry.”

The Centers for Disease Control issued a report stating that in America, between February 12 and July 31 of last year, people under the age of 21 accounted for 390,000 COVID-19 cases, including 121 deaths. According to the NPR,

They also found a staggering racial disparity. Of the children who died, 78% were children of color: 45% were Hispanic, 29% were Black and 4% were non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native.

Currently, the virus struts around and yells, “Hold my beer, and I’ll show you what comorbidity is all about!” The longer COVID-19 runs rampant, the more it goes after younger and younger victims, who of course are enthusiastic customers of quick-service restaurants. It is all one big, convoluted, terrifying mess.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood Obesity Drops In New Jersey; Pandemic Behind U.S. Spike,” Patch.com, 10/22/21
Source: “It’s Not Obesity, It’s Slavery,” NYTimes.com, 05/25/20
Source: “Most Covid-19 deaths in Malaysia linked to diabetes and hypertension, says health ministry,” StraitsTimes.com, 11/14/21
Source: “The Majority Of Children Who Die From COVID-19 Are Children Of Color,” NPR.org, 09/16/20
Image by Gwydion M. Williams/CC BY 2.0

McDonald’s — Monopoly on Families?

The previous post touched on the subjects of cultural and emotional exploitation in regard to training up children to be McDonald’s customers so that they, in turn, will habituate their children to Happy Meals and plastic toys. So let’s continue onward, chronologically, and see what else they have been up to in the more recent past.

In 2019, McDonald’s was identified as one of the top five companies whose advertising “targeted” the young Latino population, and who were specifically blamed for childhood obesity. Jessica Ravitz wrote for CNN,

Obesity rates for non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanic youth far outpace the rates for white and Asian youth, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 26% of Hispanic youth and 22% of black youth were deemed obese…

The following year saw the publication of a self-congratulatory post from a professional translator who congratulated McDonald’s for its “genuine understanding” of Hispanic customers. Aaron Marco Arias wrote on his blog,

[T]he Culture Marketing Council […] has celebrated McDonald’s for its comprehensive and intelligent approach to Hispanic marketing […] with 360 marketing initiatives per year, grassroots activations, Spanish-only social media accounts, and a website.

McDonald’s was one of the first American companies to create culturally targeted campaigns for minorities within the US… The results have been spectacular, with Latinos being one of the brand’s most loyal customer segments.

What a wholesome and benign way to describe what is, essentially, psychological warfare. Earlier this year, TheCounter.org warned,

On a given day, one-third of children and teens eat fast food. And fast-food consumption is higher for Latino and non-Latino Black teens, who also face greater risks for “diet-related diseases” compared to non-Latino white young people.

Writer Yasemin Nicola Sakay noted that, in 2019, the total fast-food corporate spending on Spanish-language TV was $318 million, which could also be expressed as a 33% increase in the seven years since 2012. Among Spanish-language TV watchers, the preschoolers were seeing more fast-food advertisements than the older children. The little kids were absorbing an average of 342 ads every year. Sakay wrote,

These results are consistent with a 2011 report from Northwestern University, IL, which states that children from marginalized groups spend 1–2 additional hours watching TV when compared with their white peers.

As Childhood Obesity News mentioned before, McDonald’s seems to want to refurbish its reputation. Apparently, the world owes a grudging nod to McDonald’s for being the only quick-serve chain that spent more than 1% of its ad budget to promote nutritious kids’ meals. In his article for Vox, Steven T. Wright points out some things that could maybe counteract the idea that McDonald’s is the epitome of evil in regard to childhood obesity. He quotes Mark Moeller, who is both chef and restaurant consultant:

The original thought with restaurants like McDonald’s was to aim at a family audience, so you could get customers for life… Over the past few years, they’ve decided to become more adult… They try to make it comfortable so older adults from 30 to 60 can go in and feel comfortable enjoying the fast food they grew up on but in a more welcoming environment.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Black and Hispanic youth are targeted with junk food ads, research shows,” CNN.com, 01/15/19
Source: “3 Brands that Understood the Latino Market (and 3 that Didn’t!),” DayTranslations.com, 02/28/20
Source: “Fast food ads continue to disproportionately target Black and Latino youth,” TheCounter.org, 07/07/21
Source: “Fast food’s equity problem: Black and Hispanic youth unfairly targeted by ads,” MedicalNewsToday.com, 07/02/21
Source: “Why McDonald’s looks sleek and boring now,” Vox.com, 11/01/21
Image by Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0

McDonald’s History en Español

It has been known for years that young people of color differ from their white counterparts in being more receptive to ads, and more brand-conscious, which solidifies into brand loyalty, one of the brass rings in the advertising merry-go-round. Said an uncredited writer at DigitalAds.org, in 2013,

Unfortunately, food and beverage marketers target these young people with some of the least healthful products on the market. Because marketers know that Hispanics and African-Americans are more likely than white consumers to befriend brands and share opinions on social networking sites, many campaigns actively encourage these behaviors.

So here ya go, kids — eat this, drink that, and be sure to spend plenty of time sitting around engaging with social media — the obesity trifecta! Oh, and just to shove you along the path, there is neuromarketing. The writer pointed out how the industry leader, the Advertising Research Foundation, had learned to focus on “emotion marketing,”

[…] to target ethnic groups and drive purchasing behavior based on subconscious emotions rather than conscious decision-making.

Shortly afterward, journalist Matthew Diaz noted that “Many large universities even offer Hispanic marketing as a major these days.” One of the goals is to fine-tune recognition of the differences between the cultural norms in various Spanish-speaking countries. He pointed out that Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s shared a special ability to “capture the essence of Latino culture and successfully push the correct message.” A large component of that message is:

[T]here are indeed universal themes that connect the Hispanic community: a passion for life, family and music.

How ironic. “Hey, see those people over there who have a passion for life and family? Let’s figure out the best way to sell them stuff that will shorten their lives and their families’.”

In a 2018 article in Media Post, Parker Morse delineated “3 Lessons Learned From McDonald’s Latest Hispanic Ad Campaign.” Using the professional jargon for consumer brainwashing, he praised ad campaigns that have done “a particularly good job in reaching out to the U.S. Hispanic audience.” He particularly praised McDonald’s for “an impressive show of cultural fluency” thanks to the company’s decision to make use of an existing fictional character from a popular superhero parody TV show, El Chapulín Colorado:

The decision to use a character with particular resonance for Hispanic audiences is particularly important, because it shows that McDonald’s cares more about creating a campaign that is deeply relevant to one audience than slightly relevant for multiple ones.

Spin doctoring at its finest! Don’t mention targeting an audience, talk instead about relevance and caring. Morse writes,

As McDonald’s’ example shows, the most important part of crafting a successful Hispanic-focused campaign is plugging into the passion points that will get the audience excited and engaged…[I]t has never been content to rest on its laurels. Instead, it has continued to find new ways of reaching its target audience…

Or, you could put it this way: Not satisfied with the damage already done, the corporation relentlessly continues to seek new realms and techniques of exploitation.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Multicultural,” DigitalAds.org,” August 2013
Source: “KFC, McDonald’s share Hispanic-marketing strategies,” 1851franchise.com, 10/16/14
Source: “3 Lessons Learned From McDonald’s Latest Hispanic Ad Campaign,” MediaPost.com, 04/16/18
Images by Cesar Bojorquez, medea_material, and Loren Javier/CC BY 2.0

McDonald’s — More Little Histories

Dr. Pretlow quotes a comment that appeared on his website Weigh2Rock in reference to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program. The comment was from a 14-year-old girl who weighed 230 pounds:

There are actually alot of activities in my school, like intramural sports and i was in them, didn’t help a smidge. And there ARE healthy affordable foods where i live, it doesn’t mean that we buy them. I don’t think she has thought about the fact that there are multiple mcdonalds in every town. For years people have had programs and activities to help obese people and it hasn’t really helped. There are many holes in this plan.

In 2019, the Happy Meal turned 40, and the corporation celebrated the occasion by bringing back 17 of the most popular toys that had been part of every Happy Meal. McDonald’s is one of the few companies that can claim to have created memories for “billions of families annually across the world” — and don’t they know it!

A top McDonald’s exec, Colin Mitchell, said in a press release,

Parents tell us how fondly they recall their favorite toys. So, unboxing the Surprise Happy Meal together creates a real moment of bonding with their children. We hope these toys are something that they will treasure and remember.

Journalist Emily Heil quoted marketing expert Jennifer Harris:

Their marketing position is that if you love your child, you’ll take them…

The drawing power of the Happy Meal depends mainly on the appeal of novelty, from the children’s point of view. From the parents’ perspective, it is part nostalgia for their own childhoods, and part emotional blackmail. In the guilt department, working mothers are a particularly easy mark. They are all about creating blissful memories, in the hopes of having lovely photos to scrapbook, in the misty future, if they ever have time. These and other motivations were studied by Prof. John Stanton, who still teaches food marketing at St. Joseph’s University.

Additionally, some parents also suffer from guilt over the fact that a Happy Meal is not, let’s face it, the optimum nutritional experience for a child. When the toys were reissued, there had already been many years of controversy.

Here is Emily Heil again:

In 2002, two Bronx teenagers filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that the chain’s food, including Happy Meals, had contributed to their obesity. The case was eventually dismissed. Other legal challenges include a 2010 California lawsuit that sought to stop the company from giving away toys, which plaintiffs claimed were used to lure children into eating unhealthy food. That was ultimately tossed, too.

The city of San Francisco in 2011 imposed an ordinance banning fast-food restaurants from offering free toys. But the wily Golden Arches got around the rule by tacking on a 10-cent surcharge for the plaything.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Happy Meal, a triumph of marketing blamed for childhood obesity, is turning 40,” WashingtonPost.com, 11/6/19
Image by Aranami/CC BY 2.0

Have It Both Ways

Yesterday’s post ended by noting that, after four years of its no-soda Happy Meal menu policy, the quick-service restaurant giant found that orders for sugar-sweetened beverages as part of the Happy Meal experience had dropped by 14%! Naturally, this was touted as a victory in the effort to end childhood obesity.

Well, leave it to a stuffy old institution to put an end to the fun. The University of Connecticut stepped in and flipped the script, sending word from its Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, who had a different take on the matter:

A new study of parents’ fast-food restaurant purchases for their children finds that 74 percent of kids still receive unhealthy drinks and/or side items with their kids’ meals when visiting America’s largest restaurant chains.

To put it another way, a small number of kids had switched gears, while more than five times as many were still stuck in the same old rut. Somehow, when phrased like that, the decrease does not sound quite so impressive.

The academics named the four largest outfits that were problematic in this area: McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Subway. Back in 2010, they had promised “to offer healthier drinks and side options in kids’ meals, and not list sugary soda as a kids’ meal option on menu boards.” Subway was found to be the only one of the biggies that voluntarily included the more healthful side dishes and drinks with their child meals. ScienceDaily reported,

A previous UConn Rudd Center study conducted in 2016 found wide variation in how well individual restaurant locations implemented those commitments.

Some, according to the report, “automatically provide sugary sodas and French fries with kids’ meal orders.” Even if the soda was left to the customer’s discretion, the brainwashing was relentless, with posters and advertisements everywhere.

As for the alternate possibilities, some of these places were playing it pretty close to the vest, as if the availability of more healthful options were some kind of shameful secret, not to be discussed in polite society. The report’s lead author Jennifer Harris said,

While most fast-food restaurants do have healthier kids’ meal drinks and sides available, many do little to make parents aware of the healthier options or to encourage parents to choose the healthier options instead of unhealthy ones. If restaurants are serious about children’s health, they will make the healthiest choice the easiest choice for parents and the most appealing choice for children.

Harris also pointed out that even in kids’ fast-food meals, excessive amounts of fat, sugar, and sodium can be a ticket to future obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more.

Parents answered the researchers’ survey questions, and many said they chose where to spend their quick-serve dollars based on the availability of healthful options for their children and, presumably, themselves. The researchers could not explain why the safer and less caloric menu items were then chosen by such a low percentage of parents. Any type of self-reporting faces this difficulty. The ways that people are are not always the ways in which they hope to be perceived.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Despite restaurant pledges, most kids receive unhealthy items with fast-food kids’ meals, study finds,” ScienceDaily.com, 09/27/18
Images by Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0

McDonald’s, Little Histories

McDonald’s USA and the Walt Disney Co used to have a business relationship, then it ended in 2006. Also in 2006, the Institute of Medicine reported that childhood obesity was influenced, and not for the better, by junk food marketing. Reuters reported,

McDonald’s Corp paid $100 million in royalties and conducted 11 promotions a year for Disney movies and television shows and opened restaurants inside its theme parks, the Times reported… Disney introduced voluntary guidelines in 2006 that prohibited licensing of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters for foods that fail to meet minimum nutrition requirements.

One question — aren’t voluntary guidelines and prohibition mutually incompatible? At any rate, they broke up, and then early in 2018, the announcement was made that the two would be getting back together again. The duration and financial terms of the contract were not discussed with the press at the time. According to Reuters,

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the new pact does not include any agreement on restaurants in parks but added: “We will continue to explore ways to bring this alliance to life.”

What a poetic way to express the intention of placing more calorie emporiums in theme parks!

More McDonald’s, more problems

McDonald’s is famous for being a gigantic behemoth, and also for catering to the desires of children. Even the rival quick-service restaurants that had climbed on the kid-friendly bandwagon were baffled by parents’ insistence on taking their kids to Mickey D’s. At the same time, the Associated Press said in early 2018, “The Happy Meal has long been a target of health advocates and parents who link it to childhood obesity.” The company has shown itself willing to tweak and tinker with the Happy Meal, but the parents and health professionals who hate it are unlikely to ever be reconciled.

Yesterday’s post mentioned that a hospital in Lucknow, India, had found a definite connection between quick-service restaurant offerings, and kidney stones. Dr. S.N. Shankhwar explained that fast food contains masses of sodium, which affects calcium metabolism, which causes hypercalciuria and stones:

Aerated drinks also decrease the ph level of urine, which does not allow complete dissolution of waste products generated in body, leading to crystal formation and strengthening of previously existing crystals… Kidney stones are formed when substances in urine become highly concentrated. Stones usually begin with a small crystal that solidifies with settlement of newer layers.

We also mentioned the ubiquitous presence of the corporation all over the world. McDonald’s at the time decreed that in international (non-US) outlets, “at least half of the Happy Meal options available must meet its new nutritional guidelines.” Sugar-sweetened beverages with fizz were removed from the Happy Meal menu, but could be ordered by the parent on behalf of the child if need be. The non-listing policy had reduced the frequency with which they were ordered, which is to the corporation’s credit. AP reports,

Since it removed soda from the Happy Meal menu four years ago, orders for it with Happy Meals have fallen 14 percent, the company said.

That cliffhanger will be expounded on in the next installment.

(To be continued…)

Source: “Disney toys return to McDonald’s Happy Meals,” Reuters.com, 02/27/18
Source: “McDonald’s Happy Meal goes on a diet, banishing cheeseburgers, shrinking fry order and adding water to drink,” OCRegister.com, 02/15/18
Source: “Fast food linked to kidney stones,” DeccanChronicle.com, 04/26/15
Image by Jim, the Photographer/CC BY 2.0

McDonald’s Miscellaneous

McDonald’s is the ultimate QSR, or quick-service restaurant, and sure, there are good things about Mickey D’s, but plenty of other people are willing to say them, including of course the corporation itself. Anyway, this is a trip down Memory Lane to stop at a few memorable landmarks and catch up on some items not previously mentioned here.

In 2014 it was noted by the School of Public Health at Australia’s Sydney University that in any given month, more than 13 million Australians were interacting with the Facebook pages of fast food and junk food companies. Young people in the 13-24-years spectrum were found to be deeply involved with the online presences of Domino’s Pizza Australia, Pringles, Cadbury Eyebrows, and McDonald’s Australia. This heavy social media saturation was perceived by the academics as an end-run to avoid the country’s restrictions on television advertising.

A global dilemma

Of course, Australia was not the only country getting riled up. In the subcontinent of India, the McDonald’s brand was already in economic trouble. The novelty of burgers and fries had worn off, and the company was losing business to many Western-based QSRs. People wanted tacos, pizza, waffles, doughnuts, and whatever else was new and different.

In Lucknow, a study conducted in the urology department of King George’s Medical University revealed that among children ages 6 to 14, the number of kidney stones had tripled within a 10-year period. A senior staff doctor confirmed that the department was receiving five or six young patients with this condition every week. The institution attributed this frightening increase to “the growing tread of binging on burgers and pizzas, both of which contain high sodium levels present in processed cheese and meats.”

At the beginning of 2018, journalist Kelsey Patterson wrote,

The nation’s largest restaurant company — which has faced criticism on a variety of societal issues in the past, including food safety and animal treatment, childhood obesity and low wages — hopes to make a positive impact within its own company and throughout the food service industry.

A spokesperson announced that in response to customer demand, the company would stop using foam for “guest packaging” by the end of the year, and that this would apply worldwide. They also promised to do better on recycling, because at that time only 10% of McDonald’s outlets were equipped with designated recycle bins. By 2025, they said, they hoped to be recycling 100% of the packaging. Furthermore, by that date, 100% of the packaging would be derived from renewable, recycled, or certified sources.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Junk food companies use Facebook to get around children’s television advertising restrictions,” News.com.au, 10/17/14
Source: “Fast food linked to kidney stones,” DeccanChronicle.com, 04/26/15
Source: “McDonald’s Announces Move That Will Change the Future of Fast Food,” PopCulture.com, 01/17/18
Image by Sean Ellis/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:

Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources