The story of McDonald's cadmium-laced Shrek glasses has died down, but the big green ogre is in the hot seat again. Only this time he's accompanied by Dora, Scooby Doo, Barbie and all of the Disney princesses.
A new study released this week found that when kids are presented with a food with a licensed character (such as the characters mentioned above), they think the food actually tastes better. And, of course, these characters are almost always plastered on the types of foods we don't want our kids to eat — like Twinkies.
The study looked specifically at the effects of Dora the Explorer, Shrek and Scooby Doo, characters that are popular with young kids. Interestingly, they didn't find that any of the characters had a stronger effect than the others, so any character will do.
I've experienced this effect firsthand with my own daughters. They practically went into cardiac arrest when they saw Disney princess cereal on the store shelf. Here's the kicker: I just said no. I told my girls that the Princess cereal was not healthy for them and went on to purchase our usual brand.
Am I some sort of supermom? I highly doubt it. I'm also not the "worst mom in the world." My kids have plenty of fun and lots of freedom ... just not when it comes to food choices. I'm the adult. I can read the nutrition label. I decide what's right for my kids to eat.
So I kind of resent the implications presented by the California "watchdog" group that is threatening to sue McDonalds over Happy Meal toys. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the plastic promotions lure children into McDonald's restaurants where they are then likely to order food that is too high in calories, fat and salt.
I agree with the notion that characters attract kids. But hey wait — who's in charge here, cartoons or parents?
The way I see it, the whole cartoon on food thing is like the cartoons on cigarette thing from a few decades ago. I agree that cartoons do lure kids into wanting something, whether it's food or cigarettes. I support organizations like the American Psychological Association that have called for the elimination of all marketing of food products to children. (This would certainly make my job easier as a parent.) But I won't go so far as to say that these cartoons are actually making children fat. No, I'm sorry, but the buck stops there. In the end it is the parent's responsibility to decide what to feed their kids.