IT WILL wipe the smile off Ronald McDonald’s face. The French arm of burger giant McDonald’s is telling parents not to allow their children to visit its restaurants more than once a week.
In what must be one of most unusual marketing campaigns in history, an ‘advertorial’ for McDonald’s in the women’s magazine Femme Actuelle has highlighted the risks of childhood obesity.
While the article said that banning children from eating fast food would be counterproductive, it added: "However, there is no reason to eat excessive amounts of junk food, nor go more than once a week to McDonald’s."
The advert has prompted dismay at the company’s headquarters in the United States. In a statement, McDonald’s said: "We do not share this view at all."
The fast food chain has struggled in France in recent years because of mad cow disease and the efforts of Jose Bove, who became a folk hero when he led a group of farmers to ransack a McDonald’s restaurant in the town of Mallau. Bove, who said his mission was to safeguard French culture from foreign influences, was jailed for two months.
The advert has been seized upon by John Banzhaf, professor of law at George Washington University, in Washington, who pioneered law suits against tobacco companies and is now turning his attention to fast-food firms.
He said: "It is one thing for a health advocate like me to call for something like this, but when someone in the industry calls for what we are saying, that makes it sound very reasonable."