Food & Farm Policy Issue Update: McDonald’s Takes Heat for Marketing to Kids

For many of us, summer means sunshine, home gardening, and lots of fresh veggies and delicious food options. Farmers markets spring up all over the country and are increasingly popular in many towns. If you are new to an area or just want to find out what your local summer food options are, check out Local Harvest for a directory of farmers markets, CSA opportunities, and more.

  • Fast food giant McDonald's has been getting a lot of attention lately, and it's doubtful they're "lovin' it." Among recent news, it was exposed that McDonalds' "all white meat" Chicken McNuggets contain "an anti-foaming agent," called dimethylpolysiloxane that's also found in silly putty. More recently they started taking heat for Happy Meals toys. The Center for Science in the Public Interest believes that encouraging children to eat low-nutrition, high-fat, and plain ol' bad for you foods by offering free toys should be made illegal, and is threatening to sue the $29 billion dollar corporation if things don't change. Could it be the beginning of the end of child-centric fast food advertising? Highly unlikely, but it certainly furthers the debate of what constitutes ethical business practices. The USDA is also considering a plan that would put limits on how food can be marketed to minors.
  • In other stomach-turning fast food news, this week Carl's Jr. unveiled a new footlong cheeseburger that costs just $4. ($.50 extra, if you'd like any form of vegetable on it.) The chain has not revealed nutrition facts on this beast yet, but Carl's Jr. is notorious for serving up severely unhealthy items. (Even their Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad with their Chipotle Ceasar dressing rings in at a whopping 50 grams of fat!) Either way, this looks like a serious candidate for the cult blog This Is Why You're Fat.
  • Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert has started weighing in on food and farm policy. He's teamed up with the United Farm Workers of America for a tongue in cheek campaign challenging America to take back some of the farm jobs going to undocumented aliens. The underlying message of the campaign is that citizens don't want these jobs and our economy relies on people from other countries doing them for us. It also underscores the fact that every major political issue - immigration among them - seems to come back to food in some way.
  • Of course all of this has been playing second fiddle to the dominant food-news story for the past several months: theGulf Oil Spill. The first of what will surely be many lawsuits has been filed by a group of Louisiana shrimpers, listing BP, Halliburton, and others as defendants. Check out this slide show from Huffington Post, which showcases just a few examples.  In the meantime, Top Chef Masters celebrity chefs like Tom ColicchioSuser Lee and Rick Moonen are publically vowing to keep cooking with the plenty of safe seafood caught in the gulf.

So enjoy the summer, check out your local farmers market, join a CSA or eat at a restaurant that uses local ingredients. Keep yourself updated on these issues by following HeadCount on Twitter, where we regularly tweet interesting headlines related to food and farm policy. If you want to see how some other music enthusiasts have been doing the same, take a look at the photos for Green Music Group's recent Eat Local Challenge - where the winner was rewarded with an Ultimate Access Pass to Shoreline Amphitheatre.