CSPI Threatens to Sue McDonald’s Over Happy Meal Toys

Never forget that the biggest threat to factory farming and the fast food industry comes, not from vegans or animal rights people, but from the far more mainstream groups funded primarily by conscientious omnivores.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the group that burst to prominence in 1994 by exposing the fat and calorie content of movie popcorn, is now threatening McDonald’s with a lawsuit regarding its use of Happy Meal toys. Their heavily-footnoted letter [PDF] to the company is scathing and powerfully argued. It’s a must-read for every food activist. Excerpts:

McDonald’s practice of dangling toys in front of children is illegal, regardless of what meal the child eventually gets. Not only does the practice mobilize “pester power,” but it also imprints on developing minds brand loyalty for McDonald’s. Because most of the company’s options (for young children and others) are of poor nutritional quality, eating Happy Meals promotes eating habits that are virtually assured to undermine children’s health.

McDonald’s duplicitous approach to marketing directed to children can be seen in a recent press release that boasts that the company’s Shrek-based promotion will “encourage kids to ‘Shrek Out’ their Happy Meals around the world with menu options like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and fruit juices.” In reality, though, the whole point of the Shrek promotion is to get kids into McDonald’s where they most likely will end up being served unhealthy default options and eating unhealthy meals.

And:

Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends diets centered on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein, McDonald’s Happy Meals consist largely of white flour, fried meat, fried potatoes, salt, and refined sugars.

Although McDonald’s promotes its health bona fides by talking about the healthier versions of the Happy Meal, the reality is that most of what McDonald’s actually dishes out to kids is simply inconsistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other authoritative nutrition advice.

Go and read the entire letter [PDF]; it’s wonderful.

Between the Retire Ronald campaign and now this CSPI initiative, McDonald’s is being put into an increasingly tight spot regarding its unethical efforts to market to children. It would have been laughable to assert this just a few years ago, but it’s now looking probable that McDonald’s is going to be forced to kill off their increasingly hated clown, and make other changes in how they market to children.

Good NPR coverage here. (Thanks, Kristie.)

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