Is McDonald's Betraying Our Kids By Barraging Them With Junk Food Ads?
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Is McDonald's Betraying Our Kids By Barraging Them With Junk Food Ads?

By John Robbins

We worry so much about the many dangers to our children, like drugs and pedophiles and violence. But we often take for granted what might very well be the largest danger of all to our kids: the hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year on ads designed to get them hooked on junk food.

That's why I think it's important that this week more than 550 health professionals and organizations signed an open letter to McDonald's, imploring the fast food giant to stop marketing junk food to kids. Many major metropolitan newspapers across the country are running full-page ads featuring the letter.

The letter doesn't so go far as to ask McDonald's to stop selling junk food to kids. It only asks them to stop aggressively advertising such foods to children.

Today, our private practices, pediatric clinics, and emergency rooms are filled with children suffering from conditions related to the food they eat. In the decades to come, one in three children will develop type 2 diabetes as a result of diets high in McDonald's-style junk food, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This generation may be the first in U.S. history to live shorter lives than their parents.

The rise of health conditions like diabetes and heart disease mirrors the growth of your business -- growth driven in large part by children's marketing...

While acknowledging that fast food is unhealthy, you pin responsibility for the epidemic of diet related disease on a breakdown in parental responsibility...

Even when parents resist the 'nag effect' cultivated by McDonald's to access the $40 - 50 billion in annual purchases that children under 12 control, advertising creates brand loyalties that persist into adulthood...

We ask that you... retire your marketing promotions for food high in salt, fat, sugar, and calories to children...

Will it make any difference?

Critics say the campaign, organized by the nonprofit watchdog group "Corporate Accountability International," is just another attempt to undercut consumer freedom, just another effort by the food police to dictate what you and your children can eat.

McDonald's food may be junk, say such critics, but it's a personal choice. No one is physically forcing children to eat Big Macs. Where are parents anyway? Why don't they assume their authority and take responsibility? Are they just looking for someone other than themselves to blame because their kids are fat and unhealthy?

No one, not even McDonald's, doubts that we are witnessing an escalating epidemic of obesity and diet-related disease in children. In 1971, only 4 percent of 6- to 11-year-old kids were obese. By 2004, the figure had more than quadrupled, to nearly 20 percent, with nearly 40 percent now considered overweight. A lack of exercise probably isn't the cause of the increase, because many studies show that exercise levels in kids haven't changed much in the past few decades. What, then, lies at the root of the crisis?


John Robbins is the author of the recently released tenth anniversary edition of The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life And Our World. He is also the author of many other bestsellers, including the classic Diet For A New America and The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less.



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