AirTalk for July 8, 2010

Is all marketing to kids inherently deceptive? The Happy Meal debate

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Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

By 2011, unless they meet healthier standards, happy meals will disappear from the San Francisco area.

Most parents are familiar with the scenario: You’re trying to get little Emily to eat well, but she saw an ad for a new toy in a Happy Meal and she really wants it. But you know – and nutritionists will tell you – that so-called “happy” meals are loaded with unhappy levels of fat and salt. Now, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has sent a letter to McDonald’s threatening to sue the company unless is stops using toys to sell food. What do you think? Is marketing to young children inherently deceptive? If kids are so malleable—and their parents so powerless to cut off the message—should corporations be banned from advertising directly to children ever? Or is that going too far?


Stephen Gardner, Litigation Director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest

Jacob Sullum, Senior Editor, Reason magazine

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