In July 2006, I wrote a post called A Mountain of Meat and Cheese, which covered Burger King’s introduction of Double, Triple and Quad Stackers. That last sandwich consisted of four burgers, four pieces of cheese and eight pieces of bacon on a flaccid bun, weighing in at a hefty 1,000 calories, 68 g fat and 1,800 mg sodium.
The post garnered more controversy than I expected. Some readers thought I was a dietary stick-in-the-mud:
“Had a quad yesterday and a triple today,” noted Rick, apparently not referring to bypass surgery. “Outstanding, exactly what I like.”
“I don’t care,” wrote James. “It’s so good. Really good. I’ll eat a salad for dinner. Actually, I’ll just eat more of these.”
I’m not sure how James’s and Rick’s cholesterol levels are doing, but these readers are certainly entitled to shovel Death Wish Burgers into their mouths. (FYI, dudes: You’re reading an online magazine dedicated to organic living. How did you even find us?)
But besides voicing my horror at super-sizing an already super-sized menu, I had another point:
Of course, Burger King is enticing kids to order this “produce-free” behemoth through a series of TV ads featuring a crew of miniature construction workers that “diligently stacks meat, cheese, bacon and BK Stacker Sauce.”
If that’s not enough, “2.5″ collectible figurines of some of the most memorable characters from the BK Stackers television ads can be purchased online…Fans can purchase a set of three figurines, including Vin the Foreman, the Kid and the Cheese Welder.”
For parents who promote organic living and healthy eating, this is yet another example of how fast-food companies and advertising agencies pander to kids without any regard for their health. It’s irresponsible at a time when childhood obesity is epidemic.
Flash-forward 3 years and little has changed. McDonald’s, inventor of the Happy Meal/free toy marketing juggernaut, is currently promoting kids’ meals with plastic dinosaurs from the new Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs film.
“We're committed to bringing the biggest and most exciting properties to life for our customers, and offering them the high-quality food they love," says Mary Dillon, McDonald's global chief marketing officer. “The McDonald's Ice Age Happy Meal event will feature movie characters on a variety of Happy Meal food choices worldwide, such as Apple Dippers and low-fat white and chocolate milk jugs in the U.S., to reach kids in a fun and responsible way.”
And according to a McDonald’s press release, "Select restaurants in the U.K. will host family scavenger hunts, taking kids on an underground adventure to help the movie characters retrieve lost items, and will offer in-store giveaways such as character masks and balloons."
I’m assuming a Quarter Pounder and fries will figure into the McFun.
Here’s the problem: Not every parent insists on Apple Dippers over French fries or low-fat milk over sugary sodas. That’s a parenting choice—and often a dismal one.
In the long run, continuing to use toys to promote Happy Meals amounts to McBribery, something Ronald McDonald shouldn’t be celebrating.
For further information, please check out these stories from our blog archives:
- Fast-Food Frenzy
- Let the Holidays Jumpstart New Meal Traditions
- Young Children’s Taste Preferences May Be Influenced by Fast-Food Branding
- Companies Pledge to Change Food Ads Targeted to Children
- Food Advertising Ban: A Good Start
- Advocacy Group Says Nickelodeon Should Ditch Junk Food Ads
- You Can Lead a Horse to Water…
- California Becomes First State to Ban Trans Fats
Photo courtesy of McDonald’s