“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children.” These harsh words are part of an ultimatum that CSPI, a consumer advocacy group, has sent to McDonald’s in a bid to stop the habit of pairing kiddie sized junk food meals with irresistible toys. And not just any toys, the most timely branded characters children love so much from recent movies.
“McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity—all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.” read more…
Happy Meals were introduced in the late 1970′s to promote McDonald’s as a restaurant for families, specifically those with smaller children. The first toy / movie tie in was Star Trek in 1979. And the rest is history.
If a happy meal was anything children really needed to eat, there would not be any uproar. But unfortunately we’re talking about a product with too much fat, salt and sugar, setting kids up for a lifetime of bad eating habits:
Of the 24 possible Happy Meal combinations that McDonald’s describes on its web site, all exceed 430 calories (430 is one-third of the 1,300- calorie recommended daily intake for children 4 to 8 years old). A Happy Meal of a cheeseburger, French fries, and Sprite has half a day’s calories and saturated fat (640 and 7 grams, respectively), about 940 milligrams of sodium, and about two days’ worth of sugar (35 grams).
From a parental perspective, Happy Meals are a pain in the ass. Kids can nag you for days about a certain toy that they must get to complete the set. You buy the meal and the kids get their toy, which either breaks or is lost within 48 hours. So yes, kill the happy meal, and not just because of the crappy food. That and the tiny toy surprises in Kinder Bueno Chocolate Eggs.
By the way, Santa Clara county, California, banned Happy Meals last month.
It will be interesting to follow how McDonald’s reacts to CSPI’s demands and if the lawsuit will pan out. What’s sure is that for a few days, people will be talking about the incessant marketing of junk food to kids. If we talk about it enough, perhaps the government will do more about protecting our children.
All this chatter got you hungry for a burger? Take a look at the one pictured in the following link to guess What’s so special about this Happy Meal?