Posted by: TTCLauren | June 4, 2011

The doctor or the “clown?”

The growing rate of diet-related illness, especially among children is staggering. Mounting evidence points to the correlation between predatory marketing and the rise in diet-related illness among children and young people.  And thanks to diets high in fast-food it’s estimated that ONE IN THREE American newborns will develop Type II Diabetes in their lifetime.

Last year Corporate Accountability International called on fast food giant McDonald’s to retire its icon Ronald McDonald and halt junk food marketing to kids, including “happy meals.”   Instead, this year the company pursued a “nutriwashing” strategy: introducing oatmeal with nutritional value no better than Snickers, and strawberry lemonade containing more sugar than Coca-Cola.

Health professionals on the frontlines of the crisis to protect public health are undermined by junk food promotions. The collective leadership of clinicians and the public health community is critical in urging McDonald’s to change course.  In May, more than 550 health professionals and institutions had already signed an Open Letter to McDonalds and their stockholders initiated by Boston-Based organization “Corporate Accountability.”  In this letter, published in major newspapers, the doctors describe the epidemic that alarms them: A full third of American kids are obese.

Their letter coincides with a McDonald’s shareholder meeting in Chicago where 14 institutional investors introduced the first resolution ever to call on a major corporation to deal with its public health impacts as well as shareholder liabilities for these impact could carry.  

Corporate Accountability International is a membership organization that has for 34 years protected people by effectively challenging irresponsible and dangerous corporate actions around the globe.

Their successes include

  • the Nestlé Boycott, causing changes in the food corporation’s aggressive marketing of infant formula,
  • the Send Joe Camel Packing initiative (including the development of the World Health Organization’s global tobacco treaty. In 2010
  • a New York and San Francisco policy that sets basic nutritional standards for the use of toy giveaways in children’s meals. 
Corporate Accountability group is working to reverse the epidemic of diet-related disease, mobilizing tens of thousands of people across the country in calling on the fast food industry to:
  • Stop fast food marketing, promotion, and sponsorship that appeals to children and teenagers
  • Stop manipulating public health policy and nutrition science
  • Provide complete, accurate, and non-promotional information about the health risks of fast food

The White House and the Federal Trade Commission are both recommending an end to junk food advertising to children, with the FTC preparing new voluntary guidelines for the nutritional quality of food that’s marketed to children.  McDonald’s committed to reducing junk food marketing to kids five years ago.  But the doctor’s letter shows that they aren’t seeing it.  It actually appears the opposite…

In 2006 fast food companies spent an estimated $2.3 billion marketing specifically to children, with McDonald’s alone spending $400 million.  In recent years, McDonald’s has apparently extended, not cut back, its reach into children’s minds and mouths. A study found that in 2009, small children were exposed to up to 25 percent more McDonald’s ads than in 2007.

Unlike doctors, McDonald’s hasn’t had to swear the Hippocratic Oath. 

So, who will you be taking your health advice from?  The doctor? Or the clown?

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