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Children's health

Children's Report Cards: McDonald's New Marketing Platform

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 by: Stephanie Ann Whited
Tags: children's health, fast food, junk food marketing

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(NewsTarget) McDonald's paid the $1,700 tab for Seminole County, Florida's report card jackets in exchange for a coupon, featuring Ronald McDonald, on the card's cover (1, 2). With good grades and attendance, the coupon can be redeemed for a free Happy Meal.

This appears to violate the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which McDonald's joined last year (3). Created by the Better Business Bureau, the initiative "provide(s) companies that advertise foods and beverages to children with a transparent and accountable advertising self-regulation mechanism." Members are not allowed to advertise at schools and cannot place materials in editorial or entertainment content.

Did McDonald's find a loophole? The report cards are sent straight to the home and may not be easily classifiable as editorial or entertainment. The first compliance review will be in three years. We might have to wait until then for the verdict.

The coupons put parents in a tough spot; a mother in the Seminole school district resented 'being the bad guy' that had to deny her daughter the meal (4). The mother made the right decision; pairing rewards from doing well at school with unhealthy food is a dangerous combination. The child may only want to do well at school if this same reward is granted, a reward that probably jeopardizes her wellbeing in the long run. It is a safe assumption to believe that the unhealthier a child is, the worse he or she will do in school.

The type of food eaten definitely makes a difference in school performance. A study shows that eating a breakfast with whole grains, like oatmeal, beats eating cold cereal or no breakfast at all (5). This is probably due to its high protein and fiber, and its gradual rise of glucose levels.

McDonald's is scarce on nutritional qualities. McDonald's still bleaches all of its grains used, eliminating any good components of its breads. Bleaching most bread creates a poison called alloxon, which has produced diabetes in lab animals, a pretty good sign it is not safe for humans (6).

McDonald's has added "healthy" choices to its menu, but these choices are only deceptively healthy, and contain colors and preservatives that have been determined to be detrimental to a human's health (7).

McDonald's defended its happy meals, citing that a child could choose a low calorie Happy Meal of Chicken McNuggets, apple dippers, and low fat milk (8). The combination may be low calorie, but it contains MSG, food coloring, and sodium benzoate (9, 10). Check here for McDonald's ingredients (http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controller.nutr...) . Most children would probably want the even unhealthier choices, anyway.

McDonald's is not the only party to blame in this recent event. According to the OrlandoSentinel.com, school board officials call the report card promotions a "business partnership" (11). The school must refrain from calling the promotion an advertisement, because the Seminole School Board has rules against advertising in its schools.

For schools to find these kinds of "partnerships" beneficial, there must be a lack of funds. If schools were properly paid for and funded, they would not be turning to corporations to print report card jackets.

For more information on the effect of marketing & advertising to children:

* Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (http://www.commercialexploitation.org/)

* Common Sense Media (http://www.commonsensemedia.org/resources/ch...)

* Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Preferences (http://www.commonsensemedia.org/resources/ch...)

* ChildrenNow.org (www.childrennow.org)

* Media & Obesity (http://www.childrennow.org/issues/media/medi...)

References:

1. (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/educatio...)

2. (http://www.prwatch.org/node/6807)

3. (http://www.us.bbb.org/WWWRoot/SitePage.aspx?...)

4. (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/educatio...)

5. (http://www.education-world.com/a_issues/chat...)

6. (http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/08/34799...)

7. (http://toremember.wordpress.com/2007/05/11/f...)

8. (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/educatio...)

9. (http://www.msgmyth.com/hidename.htm)

10. (http://toremember.wordpress.com/2007/05/11/f...)

11. (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/educatio...)

About the author

Stephanie Whited is an independent researcher dedicated to spreading awareness about health news, proven alternative treatments, and unsafe mainstream products. She maintains her own blog at http://torememeber.wordpress.com, and her personal site can be found at http://stephaniewhited.com .
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