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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

McDonald’s Stands Its Ground: Advertising To Children is OK

Corporate Accountability International (CAI) presented a proposal at McDonald’s Corp shareholder meeting yesterday that asked for a report on the links between fast food and childhood obesity. CAI worked with the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia on putting together the proposal.

The proposal was defeated, as were proposals by The Humane Society of the U.S. and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The Humane Society proposal asked McDonald’s to switch to cage-free eggs, and the PETA proposal asked the company to use controlled-atmosphere killing, considered to be more humane. [ed. note: the company mentioned at the meeting that it is starting to use one million cage-free eggs per month--12 million cage-free eggs a year.]

Despite the defeat, Nick Guroff, a spokesperson for CAI, called the proposal “an extreme success for a first introduction” and said that McDonald's executives are going to be forced “to take these concerns - as much as they diminished them at their shareholder meeting and otherwise  - very seriously.”

McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner defended the company’s right to “advertise freely.” He added that McDonald’s will “continue to advertise to our customers responsibly about our menu and about lifestyle choices and leave the personal responsibility up to them.” Skinner claimed that the fast food company takes “responsible advertising very seriously.”

Deborah Lapidus from CAI addressed the shareholder meeting and pointed out that San Francisco passed a measure “to limit toy giveaways to children’s meals that meet a very basic nutritional standard.” Other cities, including New York, “are looking to take similar, practical measures.”

Lapidus said that McDonald’s “appears hell bent on preventing communities from securing health protections against your abusive practices.” Addressing McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner, she asked, “Mr. Skinner, when will McDonald’s stop aggressively interfering in public health policy and opposing democratic efforts to create a healthier food environment, free of junk food marketing, for our children and future generations?”

CAI took out ads in major newspapers

CAI took out full page ads in Wednesday newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Metro and the San Francisco Examiner. The ad included a letter from health care providers to Skinner that asked the fast food company to “stop marketing junk food to children.”

“Advertising is at the heart of McDonald’s business model, with annual expenditures reaching $2 billion,” the letter stated, and pointed out that the company’s “marketing practices set the standard for competitors across industries.”

The letter asked McDonald’s to stop its “marketing promotions for food high in salt, fat, sugar, and calories to children, whatever form they take – from Ronald McDonald to toy giveaways. Our children and health care system will benefit from your leadership on this issue.”

Just as the CAI representative directly addressed Skinner, so did one of the signatories of the letter, Donald W. Zeigler, PhD, Director of Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles for the American Medical Association and a professor at Rush Medical College. Zeigler asked, “Mr. Skinner, will you answer the call today from leading health professionals and institutions to retire Ronald and end McDonald’s marketing of foods high in fat, sodium and sugar to children?”

Whether McDonald's will do what Zeigler and others are asking the world wide fast food company to do remains to be seen.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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