Blonde Detritus

Quest for an authentic life

Email discussion with Walt Riker from McDonald’s on the banning of toys in Happy Meals August 13, 2010

Filed under: health/nutrition — Ashley @ 10:23 am
Tags: , , ,

I recently had the pleasure of engaging in an email discussion with Walt Riker, VP of Corporate Communications for McDonald’s about the controversy over CA banning toys in Happy Meals.  Below is a transcript of our banter, for your viewing pleasure….

Mr. Riker,

I read this article in the NY Times today, Citing Obesity of Children, County Bans Fast-Food Toys. In it, you were quoted as saying that “our Happy Meals provide many of the important nutrients that children need,” including zinc, iron and calcium.”.

I’m curious…do you honestly believe that salt, fat, & preservative-laden burgers, chicken nuggets, & french fries actually provide any real nutritional value for children? Or is your statement simply part of the McDonald’s media relations script?

Ashley B.


Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate your taking the time to e-mail me. While we may not agree on all points I wanted you to see our latest statement. I guess if I had to make two points I would say: 1) We have listened, and we have evolved during the past several years; and 2) our food is quality food, backed by decades of food safety protocols.

Thanks for listening. Here is our statement:

McDonald’s is disappointed with the council’s decision, even though it does not impact any of our restaurants in Santa Clara County. The ordinance applies only to unincorporated Santa Clara where we do not have restaurants.

McDonald’s is committed to a responsible approach to our menu, and our Happy Meal offerings. We have added more choice and variety than ever before, a fact that has been widely reported and recognized. Moreover, we have been a part of the Council for Better Business Bureau’s voluntary initiative to address the importance of children’s well-being since 2006. It is important to note that in the U.S., McDonald’s only advertises Happy Meals that feature Apple Dippers, low-fat milk and white meat nuggets. In 2007, our marketing surrounding “Shrek 3” represented McDonald’s biggest ever worldwide promotion of fruits and vegetables.

Happy Meals are right-sized for kids, a concept that has not changed since its introduction in 1979. We are offering small Chicken McNuggets or a small Hamburger; a small drink choice, including low-fat white milk and a choice of small fries or Apple Dippers. Since 2008, U.S. customers have purchased more than 100 million orders of Happy Meals with our apple slices. In 2009 alone McDonald’s USA served 31 million gallons of milk.

Happy Meals are made up of 100% beef; bread; milk; apples; white meat chicken; and potatoes: it is good food, safe food, and historically popular with parents.

Concerning this particular ordinance, parents tell us they want to have the right to make their own decisions. Our customers are smart, and they will continue to make choices that are right for them.

************************************************************************************ Dear Mr. Riker,

Thank you so much for your prompt response. Although I do not frequent McDonald’s for myself or my children, as a parent, I do appreciate that you now offer more healthful choices, such as Apple Dippers. I also agree wholeheartedly that families and individuals should have the right to make their own decisions. In fact, I’m opposed to banning things like soft drinks and trans fats. However, I question the logic that white meat chicken or potatoes can still be considered healthy after being deep-fried. Or that any food that has so many preservatives that it can sit out for months or years without decaying could be good for you.

I do know that there is much debate in the health community about what is healthy & what is not. Personally, it would be refreshing for me to see companies like McDonald’s avoid trying to sell their products as healthy, when most people don’t really believe they are, and rather sell them as an indulgence. Even the healthiest among us choose unhealthy treats now & then.

Ashley B.


People are throwing the word “healthy” around but my own view is that I’m not certain they could even define it. The one undeniable truth is this — the vast majority of meals are eaten outside of McDonald’s. The average customer comes to our locations three times a month. This fact means that 87 meals a month are eaten somewhere else. Don’t get me wrong, no one here is minimizing the challenges to today’s children, from video games to sedentary lifestyles to snacking and eating. We get it, and we are providing options for parents and other customers. We do not market food as “healthy” or “unhealthy”. Our food meets all federal standards for safety, and approved ingredients, similar to the food Americans purchase at their local grocery stores. It’s a good and worthwhile debate. Thank you.


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