Kids say the darndest things. Or, in the case of 9-year-old Hannah Robertson, they confront the CEO of a multinational fast food franchise about his company's marketing policies.
Speaking at McDonald's annual shareholder meeting in Oak Brook, Ill. on May 23, Hannah asked CEO Don Thompson why he was trying to "trick kids into eating food that isn't good for them by using toys and cartoon characters."
"If parents haven't taught their kids about healthy eating, then the kids probably believe that junk food is good for them because it might taste good," Hannah said. "It would be nice if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time."
In response, a polite Thomson said, "First off, we don't sell junk food, Hannah."
He then went on to argue that his kids eat McDonald's and are healthy, adding that the chain has a plethora of healthy food options available on its menu.
"We sell a lot of fruits and veggies at McDonald's," Thompson said. "And are trying to sell even more."
Hannah and her mother, Kia, had flown to the conference from their home in British Columbia, according to The Toronto Star.
“We didn’t really feel like he acknowledged anything [Hannah said]," Robertson, a nutritional activist who works with Corporate Accountability International, told The Star. "He was more, like, we’re not the brand you think we are."
In fact, a few days later, Thompson admitted that many of McDonald's healthy options just don't sell very well, with salads accounting for just 2 precent to 3 percent of the fast food chain’s U.S. restaurant sales, according to Bloomberg News.
As a result, the chain is doing away with some of those options. It has already eliminated two salads in order to shift attention to the more popular Dollar Menu items.
The Associated Press notes that McDonald's sales lagged in the first quarter of this year, falling one percent globally -- the first such decline in 10 years.
Criticism of the chain's nutritional policies is not exactly new. In 2010, the chain was hit with a lawsuit from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that alleged McDonald's food was helping fuel the childhood obesity epidemic, according to an online CSPI release. (The suit was thrown out in 2012.)
“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner said in the press release. “McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity—all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It’s a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.”