As has been mentioned on this post before, cities and states in the US are formulating laws which will make it illegal to use toys to promote foods that don’t come up to certain nutritional standards. San Francisco and Santa Clara County have passed laws which make it illegal to use gifts to tempt young diners to eat foods which aren’t any good for them and New York is currently debating the issue.
Pre-empting this change in the law which is intended to see millions of American children making better choices about their diets without the influence of bribes and inducements Jack in the Box have decided unilaterally to withdraw toys and games from their meals. As of Thursday 16 July they are no longer going to put toys in packages aimed at children.
Fast food companies have been coming under increasing pressure to stop bribing kids into taking poorly balanced meals but the influence isn’t all stick and no carrot, if the food retailers can put together a meal which reaches certain standards concerning fat, transfat, salt, sugar and additives then they would be able to use toys to encourage children to eat from these menus instead.
Brian Luscom, a spokesman for Jack in the Box stated that: “While we’ve been aware of efforts to ban the inclusion of toys in kids’ meals, that did not drive our decision.”
Another Jack in the Box spokesman, Randy Carmichal said: “Our advertising and promotions have focused exclusively on the frequent fast food customer, not children.” (I’m wondering why you’d name your business after a child’s toy in that case but, never mind…) So, the company has been more focused on the food it provides to its customers, including children, than it had been previously and the abandonment of toys came alongside some changes in the menu including substituting sliced apple with caramel sauce for French fries. Carmichal further explained that they were now dedicated to “providing these kinds of options [that are] more appealing to a parent than packaging a toy with lower-quality fare.”
Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that it was “terrific” that Jack in a Box had taken this decision and that it was a “really monumental step” that she hoped the other fast food chains would imitate. In December last year her organisation took McDonalds’ to court to stop it from using Happy Meal toys to entice children into pestering their parents to buy them poor quality food.
While Jack in a Box have decided to go along with the law before it’s even passed, lobbyists on the side of the junk food manufacturers are trying to influence what local government can and can’t ban when it comes to food provision. As part of their battle to protect the profits of those who peddle poor quality food with the addition of a cheap plastic toy they want to get US state legislators to remove restaurant marketing from local government’s purview.
Dan Cash is a feature writer who finds there is nothing wrong with a good quality pizza in Milton Keynes or having takeaway food in Ealing, it’s bribing kids with gifts that he has a problem with.