A big “muchas gracias” to Chilean Senator Giudo Girardi, author of a recently passed law in Chile that was intended to eliminate the manipulative practice of using toys to market junk food to children. Since fast-food companies are openly ignoring the law, the Chilean senator has filed a complaint to force them to comply.
"These businesses know that this food damages the health of children and they know that the law is in effect,” Girardi told reporters. “They're using fraudulent and abusive means."
He’s right. When we at the Center for Science in the Public Interest sued McDonald’s to try to stop the practice here in the United States, we likened the company to the stranger in the playground, using candy to lure children. Young children don’t have the cognitive ability to understand the persuasive intent of advertising or the health consequences of eating sugary, fatty, and salty meals. Using toys is a way for companies like McDonald’s to go behind parents’ backs and reach directly into young kids’ brains. It’s like the sci-fi film Inception—only the implanted idea is a preference for burgers, fries, and Cokes.
San Francisco passed an ordinance last year setting nutrition standards for meals sold with toys. I’d like to see more cities and states take on toy-based junk-food marketing but what we really need is strong federal action. But the “right” to market—food, toys, or anything else—to children is something the industry is fighting tooth and nail to protect. When the federal government proposed sensible, non-binding nutrition standards for foods marketed to kids, the industry launched a multimillion-dollar lobbying and public relations blitzkrieg aimed at getting the government to back off. Unfortunately, industry succeeded.
In any other sphere of American life, it would be considered vulgar and predatory for adults to propose commercial transactions with other people’s kids. I don’t see why a man in a clown suit deserves the “right” to do so. Congratulations to Senator Girardi and may his courage be contagious.