Targeted advertising aimed at attracting innocent kids to unhealthy but high profit foods by the industry is a matter of concern in many countries striving desperately to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity. Such practices have reached uncontrollable proportion when some of the established industry players started offering attractive toys as temptation to kids and parents, finding it extremely difficult to control their kids, from rushing to such promoted products. Inclusion of cheap toys in food packs or offering toys under promotional schemes is a strategy many food processors follow but "bribing" the kids through toys to come to restaurants is a ploy of recent origin. The lame excuse that these toys are offered to increase the pleasure of eating out for the entire family cannot be justification for such questionable practices.
"Tempting kids with toys is unfair and deceptive, both to kids who don't understand the concept of advertising, and to their parents, who have to put up with their nagging children," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The group, which previously took on fast-food chain KFC over artery-clogging trans fats, alleged that the practice is illegal under consumer protection laws in states including California, Texas, New Jersey and Massachusetts. "It's a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction," Stephen Gardner, CSPI's litigation director, said in a statement. McDonald's called the group's charges a "misrepresentation" of its effort to sell healthier food and safe toys. "Getting a toy is just one part of a fun, family experience at McDonald's," spokesman William Whitman said in a statement. In 2006, the latest year for which data is available, fast-food companies, led by McDonald's, spent more than $520 million on advertising and toys to promote children's meals, according to a U.S. Federal Trade Commission report. The latest Happy Meal promotion from McDonald's is a tie-in with the popular DreamWorks Animation film "Shrek Forever After." The meals include toy watches fashioned after the movie's characters Shrek, Donkey, Gingy and Puss in Boots".
Of course if such promotional techniques are used for popularizing healthy meals for the kids, there should not be any objection to these promotional programs of the restaurant industry. But if the recent reports about the low quality of kids meals and unhealthy effect on their consumption are to be believed, catering industry has lot to answer for their irresponsible attitude vis-a-vis kids. Responsible industry players like McDonalds must give a lead to the rest in restoring the credibility of the industry and promote human welfare through concrete and positive action..