Is junk-food marketing to kids fair? Should it be allowed? Is Ronald McDonald responsible for childhood obesity and its associated diseases?
Recently, more than 550 very credible health institutions and professionals challenged McDonald’s to stop marketing junk food to kids. Initiated by Corporate Accountability International, full-page ads appeared in several dailies across the country urging people and professionals to sign the open letter and share it with peers.
An American interagency government group has developed standards for marketing food to children to help food companies determine which foods should be marketed as a way to encourage a healthful diet and which foods shouldn’t be marketed to children.
Studies do demonstrate that reducing junk-food marketing to kids could help improve millions of children’s health. But, let’s be honest. Who is responsible here? Ronald, parents, educators, or all of the above?
Personally, I’d like nothing better than to see healthier kids in North America. As a former educator, I’ve seen how vulnerable many kids are to marketing in general. But, why are we penalizing one company? Sure, McDonald’s is the largest in its category, and Ronald McDonald is a widely-recognized figure, but if we target one, we must target all marketers of high-sugar cereals with premiums in the boxes, chocolate syrup that contains high fructose corn syrup, candy bars, sugary drinks, etc.
Nutrition and health education programs are direly needed in public schools. Projects and homework assignments can then engage parents, to enlist their support, and help enlighten them as well. After all, eating habits are modeled by parents.
My kids weren’t allowed to eat junk food during their formative years. That included McDonald’s, other fast-food restaurants, and most highly-processed grocery products. They complained, and I held my ground. Parents have huge influence on their children’s eating habits, especially during the first 8 to 10 years.
As a society, it’s very challenging to balance business success with the best interests of our people. When business thrives, people are employed and can support their families. On the other hand, when our families are in ill health, we all pay the price eventually—in the United States with higher health insurance premiums, and in Canada, with higher taxes to cover universal healthcare.
So, what do YOU think? Should Ronald McDonald retire? Should all food marketers be held accountable for the products that contribute to ill health?