NPR reports that the Center for Science in the Public Interest has threatened to sue McDonald’s unless it stops including toys in its Happy Meals. They argue that it encourages brand loyalty in kids towards a product that is not healthy for them. When I saw the headline my first reaction was positive. No toys would mean no more pestering to go and buy junk food. On second thoughts, however, I am not so sure. It is good that this issue is being brought into the public conversation: we are all aware of where McDonald’s food stands from the nutritional standpoint and the toys are not always the best quality either. Having said that, it is still the parent’s decision to allow the child to have a Happy Meal. We need to say, “no” and also explain why not. I don’t think this can or should be legislated. If you don’t like the Happy Meal concept, do not allow your child to have one. The problem is not an occasional treat but regular stops at McDonald’s and that is something that parents need to think about. McDonald’s business is to encourage brand loyalty, our responsibility as parents is to encourage independent thinking.
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