Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan
Today the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and McDonald’s released an updated agreement that clarifies that the chain will indeed phase out listing soda on the kids’ meal section of its menu boards. Taking soda off the Happy Meal section of menu boards at McDonald’s is an important step toward healthier kids meals and healthier children. It is a step that should be immediately adopted by Burger King, Wendy’s, and other restaurants. Soda and other sugar drinks are leading promoters of obesity and diabetes, and one day it will seem crazy that restaurants ever made this junk the default beverage for kids.
On September 26, McDonald’s, in partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, announced that it would cease featuring and promoting soda as a beverage option with kids’ meals. The fine print of their agreement, however, disclosed that while McDonald’s would not depict soda through graphics on the Happy Meal section of the menu, it would still list soda as a Happy Meal option on menu boards.
CSPI issued a statement on September 27 stating that McDonald’s had misled the public and the media about the true extent of the change in policy -- because continuing to list soda on menu boards as a Happy Meals option is featuring soda on the menu and is a promotion of sugar drinks to children.
I spoke to McDonald’s and the Alliance about my concerns regarding the agreement and urged them to completely remove soda from the Happy Meal section of the menu board. A McDonald’s spokesman told me that my concerns were brought to McDonald’s CEO Donald Thompson, who agreed that continuing to list soda on the Happy Meal section of menu boards would be inconsistent with McDonald’s commitment. I applaud McDonald’s for strengthening its commitment and removing soda from the kids’ meal section of its menu boards.