Children are impressionable, and McDonald’s has managed, in the majority of cases, to make children prefer McDonald’s over all other fast food choices. Some people have decided that McDonald’s marketing is to blame for the fact that kids eat French fries and not fruits and veggies. Or, at least, the claim to believe McDonald’s possesses such awesome powers. And they even pretend that they think children are somehow wise leaders in society. Thus, from MSNBC and Morning Joe:
“Nine-year-old Hannah Robertson doesn’t want a Happy Meal. She wants a healthy meal. And she’s not shy about saying it: Hannah took her pitch straight to the boss, telling McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson during the annual shareholder’s meeting that targeting kids with unhealthy food isn’t fair.”
Targeting—as if our children’s mouths are all forced open against their will and Ronald McDonald is out there with a fry gun shooting potatoes into their stuck-open mouths. She goes further, and told the CEO of McDonald’s, “Something I don’t think it’s fair when big companies try to trick kids into eating food that isn’t good for them by using toys and cartoon characters.”
It doesn’t work that way. If you put all of the clown’s power behind the sale of broccoli or spinach, he would be let go within weeks. Contrary to what Hannah Robertson has been led to believe, the children aren’t tricked at all. If you tried to make them eat fruits and vegetables, they wouldn’t be enthusiastic and they’d eventually become downright hostile to McDonald’s “healthy” food. No matter how big the company, or how many toys they used as bribes, or how many cartoon characters they used, children cannot be persuaded to eat butter beans.
If anyone really has the power to “trick” a kid, it is probably the child’s own parent. In fact, Hannah’s mother just happens to be “a kid’s nutritional advocate.” So even though USA Today and Morning Joe both shamelessly use a child to sell an anti-McDonald’s message, they know that nothing of the kind ever happened. Hannah’s mom just exploited her daughter for the sake of a message.
Was the message worth it? I doubt it. Fruits are sugary. The CEO boasted that they now serve low-fat chocolate milk, but such milk makes up for the loss of fat by using more carbohydrates, which many believe are much worse than fat. The idea that fat in food becomes fat in our bodies is arguably a junk-science myth. If so, switching to fat-free, which is heavier in carbs, is an unhealthy move.
But even unhealthier is this ridiculous belief that corporations have the power to make people do things they don’t want to do. McDonald’s may have managed to make children prefer them to Burger King or Wendy’s, but that doesn’t mean they can control children’s real food preferences. The entire pretense is simply propaganda for the idea that children’s food preferences can be controlled by the will of others.
That ridiculous claim in turn provides justification for all the Mayor Bloombergs of the world who claim that the government is supposed to control what people eat for their own good.