In the wake of recent studies linking unhealthy diets to shortened life spans and elevated cancer risk, the organization is challenging fast-food industry leaders McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's/Arby's, and Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell) to stop aggressively marketing to children, blocking labeling laws, and interfering in public health policy.
Corporate Accountability International issued demands in a letter to all four CEOs and is launching a national public education and action campaign called Value [the] Meal. The campaign aims to stem the global tide of diet-related disease, in which fast food giants are playing a central role.
"McDonald's and others have reduced the meaning of 'value' to how little we pay at the register, ignoring the significant cost to our children's long-term health and environment," says Executive Director Kelle Louaillier. "It is about time the fast-food industry took responsibility for its role in making our children sick, acting to truly Value [the] Meal, not just to increase sales of 'value meals.'"
As big fast food has expanded its global market in recent years, health conditions associated with diet have accelerated at an alarming rate. While one out of every seven people in the world is hungry, twice that number are now overweight or obese. Globally, more people now die from diet-related diseases than any other preventable cause of death except tobacco smoking.
In the U.S., the generation of children growing up today may be the first with a shorter life span than the one before it, owing in large part to shifts in diet. And each year the direct and indirect costs of diet-related disease cost well over $120 billion in the U.S. alone.
"This industry knows that enticing children when they're young can make them customers for life," says Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. "That's why fast-food corporations market themselves to children in school, on TV, and online. This industry wants parents to think it's normal for kids to eat fast food every day."
Every year, fast-food giants spend hundreds of millions in marketing to children and millions more opposing menu labeling laws.
"You can only imagine that if, in this economy, these corporations were instead putting that money into reducing the negative health impacts of its food, how we might all be better off," says Campaign Director Judy Grant. "The public is ready for Big Fast Food to stop playing a public relations shell game that employs mascots and clowns to put a happy face on its life-threatening practices."
Corporate Accountability International is calling on fast food corporations to:
-- Stop fast food advertising, promotion and sponsorship that appeals to children and teenagers
-- Stop manipulating public health policy and nutrition science
-- Provide complete, unbiased and accurate information about the health risks of fast food
-- Reduce the negative health impacts of fast food
-- Not interfere with people's right to decide whether or where fast food will be sold in their communities
-- Pay the high costs of health care associated with diet-related diseases