The Food Police finally ran up against someone who is not going to back down, and that is a good thing for all of us. Earlier this week CSPI, a DC-based overreaching non-profit advocacy nanny group that reportedly has $80 million in the bank, threatened to sue McDonald's after accusing them of using toys in their Happy Meals to market the meals to children.
Just about everyone I know has eaten at McDonald's over the years. My kids loved their burgers and fries when they were young. While traveling cross-country, we would often take a mid-day break at a McDonald's with a playground where our little ones would burn off some energy while we ate our lunch. When it was time to hit the road again, we would order Happy Meals to go and the kids would then eat in the vehicle as we continued on our journey. Now may be a good time for belated "thanks" for those wonderful playgrounds.
Rush Limbaugh was very supportive of McDonald's on his conservative radio show Friday, agreeing with their response to stand up to the Food Police as he read a letter written by McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner responding to CSPI's threat of a lawsuit, posted on McDonald's website:
July 6, 2010Maybe other American corporations will take notice that Ronald McDonald is standing up to the bully on the playground. Meanwhile, I'm going to celebrate McDonald's corporate backbone with a McCafé Mocha Frappé. Cheers!
Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., Executive Director
Center for Science in the Public Interest
1875 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20009
Dear Mr. Jacobson:
On behalf of McDonald's franchisees and our 1.6 million employees around the world, I am writing to set the record straight regarding the misinformation that CSPI communicated about McDonald's in your June 22nd press release. I am referring to CSPI's threat to sue McDonald's within 30 days if we continue to include a toy as part of the positive and popular Happy Meal customer experience we provide.
We have a long history of working with responsible NGOs who are interested in serious dialogue and meaningful engagement; and we are open to constructive feedback. You say you want a dialogue with McDonald's, but your tactics and inflammatory rhetoric suggest otherwise. CSPI's twisted characterization of McDonald's as "the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children" is an insult to every one of our franchisees and employees around the world. When CSPI refers to America's children as "an unpaid drone army," you similarly denigrate parents and families, because they are fully capable of making their own decisions. You should apologize.
Here are several other things you should know.
First, the public does not support your lawsuit. Internet sites, blogs and network surveys suggest that public opinion is running overwhelmingly against your premise. Our customer websites and phone lines at McDonald's are also busy, with more than nine out of ten customers disagreeing with your agenda. Parents, in particular, strongly believe they have the right and responsibility to decide what's best for their children, not CSPI. It really is that simple.
At McDonald's, we listen to what our customers tell us. For the past 30 years they have told us -- again, overwhelmingly -- that they approve of our Happy Meal program. Three decades provide a lot of listening time. That's why we are confident that parents understand and appreciate that Happy Meals are a fun treat, with right-sized, quality food choices for their children.
On this point, it seems that you purposefully skewed your evaluation of our Happy Meals by putting them in the context of a highly conservative 1,300 calorie per day requirement. I'm sure you know this category generally applies to the youngest and most sedentary children.
Furthermore, your over-the-top rhetoric flies in the face of our 55-year track record of caring for kids, a core McDonald's value. Ronald McDonald House Charities has donated more than $465 million to children's causes since its founding. Additionally, every night more than 6,400 families with critically ill children stay in the 300 Ronald McDonald Houses close to hospitals in 52 countries around the world. Also, customers recognize that their local McDonald's restaurants and the franchisees who proudly run them continue to be some of the strongest supporters of youth athletics and activities in the world. Ronald McDonald also serves as an ambassador for children's well-being, promoting messages around physical activity and living a balanced, active lifestyle.
As Chief Executive Officer of McDonald's, I want you to know we will vigorously defend our brand, our reputation, our food and our people. CSPI is wrong in its assertions, and frivolous in its legal threats. McDonald's has proudly evolved both our menu and marketing practices and will continue to respond to our customers' needs. We have more choice and variety than ever before in our Happy Meals and across our menu. Furthermore, McDonald's makes available in-depth, comprehensive nutrition information about our food to give parents the support they need to make appropriate choices for their children.
Children's well-being requires an ongoing effort and commitment to be a part of the solution. Going forward, we will continue to make more changes that are relevant to our customers and in their best interests, as we always have.
Chief Executive Officer