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Thursday
Feb032011

Crazy food issues, Part 2: CSPI vs McDonald's and the fight over food, toys, and ostensibly stupid parents.

Some of our ideas surrounding food are pretty crazy.

Where do you start on the matter of Americans' crazy ideas over food--it's in the news wherever you turn.  Take what happened last December:  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed notice to bring a lawsuit against McDonald's for the chain's failure to stop selling Happy Meals for children with toys.  The Washington-based advocacy group charges that McDonald's meals are too high in sugar, calories, fat, and salt for children and are not healthy for them--and are to be prohibited from doing so when coupled with the offer of a toy premium.  

Marketing supposedly undercuts parental authority.

“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” said CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner. “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.”

It makes good parenting "nearly impossible."  Really?

Says CSPI executive director, Michael F. Jacobson, “I’m sure that industry’s defenders will blame parents for not saying ‘no’ to their children. Parents do bear much of the responsibility, but multi-billion-dollar corporations make parents’ job nearly impossible by giving away toys and bombarding kids with slick advertising" [italics added].

Children become a drone army against their parents.

“McDonald’s marketing has the effect of conscripting America’s children into an unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers, causing them to pester their parents to bring them to McDonald’s,” wrote Gardner in a notice letter to McDonald’s [italics added].  

Transforming otherwise good parents into helpless zombies?

What CSPI proposes here is that the food and the toy offered by McDonald's create an appeal for children that is too powerful for parents to say no to when their children ask for it!  In effect, it's argued, the food and the toy and the marketing make parents helpless zombies!  In other words, McDonald's offering and the promotion of it are 'way too over-whelming for parents to resist the demands of their off-spring.  Which is nonsense!

If you ask me, I say that's ostensibly a pretty powerful effect that food and toys and advertising have on otherwise perfectly normal adults!  That's what I call some kind of compelling marketing McDonald's is accused of carrying out!  

They've got to be kidding.

Of course, this is all crazy talk.  Any normal person who's a parent is far more powerful than some dopey ad campaign that involves tasty-if-unhealthy food and a cheap toy.  What CSPI is doing is an insult to parents everywhere, parents who are, in fact, not too stupid to say no to their children and could, if they really wanted to, feed their crumb-crunchers something different and potentially more healthy--all without the meddlesome involvement of anti-capitalist, anti-business CSPI and its lawyers.  

Tomorrow:  Food you wear and could eat if you were inclined!  
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Follow Keith's biz blog on Twitter for updates and see more of what he's reading about on his Facebook Page. You can write him at kmurray@bryant.edu.  

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« Crazy food issues, Part 3: Food you can wear--and actually could eat if you really wanted to! | Main | Crazy food issues, Part 1: Beating up on lowly Taco Bell--all for exactly what? »