McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s will not be following in the footsteps of KFC in removing toys that encourage children to eat their products.
It was announced yesterday that KFC would be removing toys from the kids meals in its 600 stores Australia-wide and Zac Rich said it was time for the practise to end.
"We hope this decision will support parents when making dietary decisions on behalf of their children which aren’t influenced in any way by pressure to choose the meal that has the toy," Rich said.
Health experts have welcomed the decision and are calling on other fast-food outlets would follow.
The changes come in the midst of debate about the obesity crisis and advertising junk food to children.
Last year the Australian Food and Grocery Council suggested to junk food retailers they should stop aiming advertisements at children, but the rate of advertisement only increased.
The Australian Medical Association wants the practise banned.
Last week the Victorian government announced it would be spending $40 million on a ministry of food campaign similar to celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s to educate families about exercise and nutrition to combat the one in four Victorian school children who are overweight.
A study out of the US found nagging by children for food products increased dramatically when cartoon figures were used in advertisements, even if the child did not like the food itself.
Dietitian Margaret Hays told The West Australian KFC’s move was a step in the right direction, but also added it is the responsibility of parents to make food decisions for young children.
"We don’t want children encouraged to eat foods just because they are going to get a toy with it," Hays said.
UWA consumer research expert Simon Pettigrew said toys had become a key marketing tactic in capturing the child market.
"All the research that we do with families tells us that children, and to some extent even the parents, are choosing those meals because of the toys," Pettigrew said.
A McDonald’s spokeswoman defended the restaurant’s decision to include toys in its McHappy meals, claiming they are an important part of McDonald’s aim to make visiting stores "fun and special".
A Hungry Jack’s spokesman also said the restaurant chain had no plans to remove toys because they had been a fundamental part of its kids meals for almost 40 years.