Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
When asked what foods a Burger King ad depicting a child’s meal included as part of a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics, only 10 percent of children correctly identified apple slices–most of the rest said they thought the food was French fries. More from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, which completed the study:
In research published on March 31, 2014 in JAMA Pediatrics, Dartmouth researchers found that one-half to one-third of children did not identify milk when shown McDonald’s and Burger King children’s advertising images depicting that product. Sliced apples in Burger King’s ads were identified as apples by only 10 percent of young viewers; instead most reported they were french fries.
Other children admitted being confused by the depiction, as with one child who pointed to the product and said, “And I see some…are those apples slices?”
The researcher replied, “I can’t tell you…you just have to say what you think they are.”
“I think they’re french fries,” the child responded.
“Burger King’s depiction of apple slices as ‘Fresh Apple Fries’ was misleading to children in the target age range,” said principal investigator James Sargent, MD, co-director Cancer Control Research Program at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. “The advertisement would be deceptive by industry standards, yet their self-regulation bodies took no action to address the misleading depiction.”
In 2010 McDonald’s and Burger King began to advertise apples and milk in kids meals. Sargent and his colleagues studied fast food television ads aimed at children from July 2010 through June 2011. In this study researchers extracted “freeze frames” of Kids Meals shown in TV ads that appeared on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and other children’s cable networks. Of the four healthy food depictions studied, only McDonald’s presentation of apple slices was recognized as an apple product by a large majority of the target audience, regardless of age. Researchers found that the other three presentations represented poor communication.
This study follows an earlier investigation conducted by Sargent and his colleagues, which found that McDonald’s and Burger King children’s advertising emphasized giveaways like toys or box office movie tie-ins to develop children’s brand awareness for fast food chains, despite self-imposed guidelines that discourage the practice.
While the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission play important regulatory roles in food labeling and marketing, the Better Business Bureau operates a self-regulatory system for children’s advertising. Two different programs offer guidelines to keep children’s advertising focused on the food, not toys, and, more specifically, on foods with nutritional value.
“The fast food industry spends somewhere between $100 to 200 million dollars a year on advertising to children, ads that aim to develop brand awareness and preferences in children who can’t even read or write, much less think critically about what is being presented.” said Sargent.
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Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson is defending his company’s food quality, and its use of its clown mascot, Ronald McDonald. The Huffington Post reports on the interview Thompson gave to Bloomburg TV’s Betty Liu:
“We have tremendously high quality proteins,” he says. “It is all real food,” he continues. “We have always supported high quality food. We support farmers, fresh food.”
Liu brings up kids’ food at McDonald’s and Thompson responds, “We’ve added more fruits, more vegetables, we’ve changed our milks…we’ve done a lot of things.” He also reaffirms that the company will “continue to try to do more.”
Thompson gets defensive though, when it comes to marketing to children. People blame Ronald McDonald for peddling food to children, he claims, but argues that the blame is misguided. Ronald is merely a brand icon that is involved with the company’s charities, he explains. “When is the last time you saw Ronald eating food or marketing to your children? You haven’t seen Ronald do that,” he says.
The CEO gets more personal when he discusses his own children. “I bring my kids to McDonald’s now because the food is high-quality. It’s safe.”
Image: Drive-thru fast food, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 13th, 2012
Apple slices, including those sold at grocery stores and McDonald’s and Burger King fast food restaurants, have been recalled because the food-borne bacteria listeria was found on equipment where the food was processed. The apples were produced by Missa Bay LLC, owned by Ready Pac Foods Inc. of Swedesboro, N.J. According to The Associated Press:
Packaged apple slices distributed to McDonald’s and Burger King in some states are included in the recall as are packaged food containing apples distributed to Wawa convenience store and Wegman’s grocery chains and some “Ready Pac” products.
Recalled products have use-by dates of July 8 through Aug. 20. Missa Bay announced the voluntary recall on Friday, saying the food went to 36 states and the District of Columbia. People may contact Ready Pac at 800-800-7822 or visit www.readypac.com.
Image: Apples, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, December 1st, 2011
In the wake of a new law in San Francisco prohibiting fast-food restaurants from giving away toys with meals that don’t meet nutritional guidelines for sodium, calories, and fat, McDonald’s restaurants announced that it will instead allow parents to purchase a Happy Meal toy for 10 cents. The Associated Press reports:
Eric Mar, the San Francisco supervisor who sponsored the ordinance, called the 10-cent charge a “marketing ploy,” but said he doesn’t plan to make any changes in the ordinance to address the tactic.
The goal of the law was not to micromanage fast-food chains but to raise awareness about the nutritional content of the food, he said, pointing to McDonald’s switch to apples and smaller portions of french fries in Happy Meals as an example of the success of the law.
“We feel that our efforts to create healthier options forced the industry to acknowledge their role in childhood obesity,” he said about the law that also goes into effect Thursday.
Scott Rodrick, who owns 10 of the 19 McDonald’s franchises in the city, said the 10-cent charge was intended to adhere to the letter of the law while giving consumers what they want.
All those dimes will go to help build a new Ronald McDonald House to accommodate families of sick children at the new University of California, San Francisco hospital now under construction.
(Image via: http://www.mcdonalds.com/)
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Monday, September 19th, 2011
An Arizona child-development professor and mother of four has launched a campaign to get fast-food restaurants to maintain better cleanliness standards in their playground equipment. The New York Times reports that after her own kids exclaimed “Yuck!” in a local McDonald’s PlayPlace, Erin M. Carr-Jordan visited dozens of restaurant play spaces in 11 states, collecting samples from the equipment surfaces to be analyzed in a lab setting:
What the inspections and lab analyses have revealed is the widespread presence of an array of pathogens, from coliform bacteria to staphylococcus, at levels that experts said indicated that restaurants might not be disinfecting their playlands as diligently as they should.
Those same experts pointed out that germs are everywhere and that they are not always dangerous. They add that hand washing is an important safeguard.
“I’m not shocked or blown out of the water, because this is my business,” said Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, who surveyed some of Dr. Carr-Jordan’s results. At the same time, Dr. Tierno said, “There are very high counts, and that means these places are not cleaned properly or not cleaned at all.”
Carr-Jordan has formed a non-profit organization called Kids Play Safe to call attention to the problem and push for legislation mandating more rigorous cleanliness standards for the playgrounds.
(image via: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/)
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