Chile Bans Toys With Fast Food
A while ago, McDonald’s had been sued for its Happy Meal products but more recently, Chile has taken its opposition to fast food to a totally new level by imposing a ban on toys sold with children’s meals. As a result of the new law, fast food companies violating this diktat are being sued for putting the health of children in danger. All the major American companies (who else?) doing business in Chile are caught up in the storm.
Fast Food & Kids
It was the politicians, surprisingly, who forced the Chilean government to impose legislation that could stop the fast food corporations from selling toys and other treats to entice children towards junk meals. As a result of political will, the country implemented the new law on June 7, 2012. The law is meant to check increasing levels of obesity in children and since America has, so far, failed to do so, the Obama administration could learn a thing or two from the Chile government.
Chilean Senator Giudo Gerardi was the person who filed a formal complaint with the country’s health ministry, asking it to investigate how, even a month after the new law was in place, the fast food companies continued to market toys with fast food meals, thus endangering children’s health. But McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, etc are not the only companies, which are being targeted. Senator Gerardi is also going to attack manufacturers of breakfast cereals, popsicles, and similar products, which are sold with the help of child-friendly products like toys, stickers, and crayons. On Gerardi’s target-list are the markets where such products are sold. So, as you can see, the government is going the whole hog with this matter.
If the health ministry decides in favor of Gerardi’s complaint then the companies, against whom the complaint is made, could be asked to either remove the products from their menus or pay up. Here is what Gerardi has to say, “These businesses know that these foods damage the health of children and they know the law is in effect. They’re using fraudulent and abusive methods. Burger king puts toys in its ‘happy meals’ and this is illegal; so is the unhappy little box of McDonald’s.”
The Irony of it!
The ironical part of the matter is that it was bans imposed by American cities and public interest litigations filed by US-based agencies that served as an inspiration for Gerardi to draft the junk food law. Those worth mentioning are the suit filed by Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest against McDonald’s in 2010 and the 2011 San Francisco ban on restaurants, prohibiting them from selling toys with high-calorie meals. Never mind the fact that none of these measures were able to defeat the fast food companies in America. As Sara Deon, working with the Corporate Accountability International, who has already done a lot for this campaign in New York and San Francisco, advises Chile, “Chilean public servants should have no illusions” about the implementation of such a law. She explains, “Judging from McDonald's response to similar health laws in the U.S. we'd expect the corporation to respond as it long has: it will fight tooth and nail to continue marketing to children. It will take every opportunity to blame parents for today's health epidemic. Marketing to kids is core to McDonald's brand and to its bottom line.” Hearing Deon speak may make you feel that banning products like McDonald’s Happy Meal is the only option, but it is not that easy to tackle.
It seems that Senator Gerardi is under no illusion regarding the supremacy of fast food companies in this regard and he is in no doubt that eating such Happy meals as propagated by the companies is no less than a crime. He says, “These businesses know that this food damages the health of children and they know that the law is in effect. They’re using fraudulent and abusive means.” With even 6-year-olds in Chile suffering from obesity, the new law came into being despite the corporate sector lobbying hard against it. That, at least, is a ray of hope for the campaigners. While so far there has been no response from the fast food majors to the new law or its inherent legal implications, the fight is bound to become interesting.