Are Happy Meals Really a “Creepy and Predatory Practice?”

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mamoritai/3437088496/">Photo: Used with permission by Flickr user Mamoritai</a>

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McDonald’s Happy Meals toys are in the news again, but not for their cadmium-laced veneers or potentially choke-inducing tiny parts (see a Mother Jones slideshow of recalled toys for more in that vein). No, this week the entire concept of Happy Meals sits in the hot seat. “McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” says Center for Science in the Public Interest litigation director Stephen Gardner. The watchdog group has given McDonald’s 30 days to pull toys from the menu—or face a lawsuit for illegal and deceptive food marketing.

But are the millions of burger dollars pumped into kid marketing really why—as Corporate Accountability International put it—”one in three children born today will become diabetic during their lifetime as a result of a McDonald’s-style diet?” Argues Slate writer Rachael Larimore:

If you’re going to punish McDonald’s for catering to kids, are you also going to restrict how much programming the networks can air targeted to children? Are you going to tell Nintendo that they can release only so many games rated “E for everyone”?…it’s not fair to blame one company or one industry for a disease that has a multitude of causes. That just lets the parents off the hook.

The concern over the seductive qualities of Happy Meals could mean the end to a childhood tradition of getting a fun surprise along with those chicken McNuggets. But at the rate the meals are now being consumed worldwide, maybe it’s a tradition that has gotten a little out of hand.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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