McDonald?s Finds Loophole on Banned Promotion

McDonald’s Will Charge For Happy Meal Toys in SF (San Francisco Chronicle)

Fast Food PromotionIn November 2010, we made note of a decision by the city of San Francisco to ban fast food establishments from offering free toys with the purchase of meals targeted to children.? The most famous promotion tied to meals is the McDonald?s Happy Meal, which is purchased thousands of times per day throughout the U.S.? The leaders of the City by the Bay, instituted the ban because they believe the offer of free product encourages poor eating habits and helps contribute to an increase in childhood obesity.? (This issue is also being raised by the Federal Trade Commission, which has proposed changes to how food is marketed to children.)

At the time of the announced intention to ban the give-aways, McDonalds complained loudly and suggested that they were not the ones at fault.? And if someone should be criticized it should be the parents of the kids, who make the purchase.? Of course, this did not sit well with nutrition and health experts, who suggest McDonalds has a much greater impact on childhood nutrition than they will admit.

After some legal wrangling, the ban finally went into effect today.? And you might think the fast food giant is about to see a significant dip in Happy Meal sales.? Well, not so fast.? As this story discusses, the clever folks at McDonald’s have figured out a loophole ? charge for the toy contained in the Happy Meal.? In fact, charge just 10 cents.

To make this a little easier for San Francisco politicians and activists to accept, McDonald’s says it will donate the 10 cents to charity.

Instead of reducing fat, salt and sugar in children’s meals and offering more fruits and vegetables, Rodrick’s stores will adhere to the law Thursday by making customers pay an extra 10 cents for a Happy Meal toy. Customers who buy Happy Meals outside San Francisco, including just across the border in Daly City, will continue to get the toy gratis.

Should fast food companies really to held responsible for the purchases parents make for their children?

Image by Christian Heindel