May 24, 2013 – Last September I wrote a feature story on Children and Obesity and one of the integral segments in my research included Corporate Accountability International (CAI), a consumer advocacy group representing John Harrington, a McDonald's shareholder, who is concerned with obesity and other children's diet related diseases. Harrington submitted a motion to the fast food giant to produce a nutrition report on the company's food products but McDonald's voted against a shareholder proposal to produce such a report.
Andrew Bremer, a medical professor at Vanderbilt University argued that the company's contribution to obesity was putting the company's shareholders at risk. John Harrington, who owns 100 shares of the fast food giant's stock, wrote several arguments in favour of the resolution citing that:
- One in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes.
- According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) the obesity rate among U.S. children from the age of 2 to 19 has tripled since 1980 with 1/3 of all children being overweight or obese.
- 70% of obese children become obese adults.
- There are strong ties between aggressive marketing and healthy eating.
- Finding a loophole to work around the ordinance banning the giveaway of toys to children in fast food restaurants clearly shows that the food company is determined to market to kids.
A resolution at the annual shareholder's meeting, which took place on May 23, 2013, will seek to not only prevent the fast food giant from marketing unhealthy food like 'Happy Meals' to children but also examine and report on the efforts in addressing the impact on public health.
Sarah Deon, Director of CAI's "Value [the] Meal" campaign stated, "What McDonald's is attempting to pass off as nutritional initiatives, slick nutri-washing campaigns, and ineffectual voluntary initiatives, are nowhere near enough to address the public health impacts of its business operations nor is it enough to protect shareholders from increasing financial risk," reported TriplePundit, an innovative new-media company for the business community that cultivates awareness and understanding of the triple bottom line.
There have been two shareholder resolutions in regards to the nutritional content of McDonald's food in recent years both of which did not pass, although McDonald's has begun sourcing more eggs from cage-free facilities even though a resolution forcing McDonald's to purchase cage-free eggs did not pass.
Over the years activists have won several battles from the elimination of polystyrene packaging to having healthier options match up against the 'big meal' but the fast food giant is not changing fast enough for some stakeholders.
"When McDonald's spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to market to children online, in schools, on the way to school, in community centres, with role models and more, they're creating an environment that undermines parental choice," Says Deon.
Hannah Robertson, a nine-year-old girl who attended the McDonald's annual shareholders meeting with her mother in Oak Brook, Illinois had an opportunity to make a comment pointed at Don Thomson, CEO of McDonald's, in which she said, "It would be nice if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time."
It is the hope of CAI that McDonald's makes the necessary marketing and nutritional value resolutions to set a precedence and standard in the food industry so that other fast food giants like Burger King, Wendy's, and Taco Bell, among countless others, will beckon towards their multi billion dollar, guiding light.
If the food industry was held accountable, and the marketing industry used their savvy to promote healthy food, a course of action enabling straightforward policy changes would have an enormous and positive impact on our children's future. If more families were inspired to cook their meals (not heat pre-packaged foods) and prepare healthy lunches with balanced, nutritional food choices, the statistics for our children's future wouldn't be staggering – they would be commendable.
McDonald's Fast Food Restaurant – Facts:
- McDonald's is the largest chain of fast food restaurants in the world
- As of June 2012, McDonald's has more than 34,000 fast food restaurants around the world in 118 countries
- There are over 18,500 McDonald's fast food restaurants in the United States
- There are over 1,400 McDonald's fast food restaurants in Canada
- McDonald's revenue is over 28 billion and has assets worth 33 billion
- McDonald's first restaurant opened in 1940 in San Bernardino, California