Fast food chains in Chile will no longer be allowed to sell children meals that come packaged with toys and other goodies, reported the Associated Press on Wednesday, after Chilean health authorities introduced a new law on June 7, which targeted companies that marketed unhealthy food to kids.
According to AP, many fast food restaurants, including McDonalds, KFC and Burger King had been either ignoring or been ignorant about the new law, though Chilean Senator Giudo Gerardi has now filed a formal complaint to the health ministry seeking an investigation.
Gerardi added that, besides the fast food joints, other food producers, including those who make cereal and popsicles, were also violating the new rules; and that the companies should be forced to remove the products or face nominal fines.
The senator claimed that he had written the law as nearly a quarter of Chile's 6-year-olds were now suffering from childhood obesity. Gerardi added that it took seven years for the law to be enacted, as the food industry had lobbied intensively against it.
"These corporations threatened that if the law was approved there would be no more money for children's foundations, the sick, or athletes, but we were finally able to create a great alliance between the civil society and scientists to defeat these lobbyists," the senator said.
Sara Deon, an activist with Corporate Accountability International, praised Chile for passing its law, but the Chilean public to “have no illusions" about the feasibility of fully implementing it.
"Judging from McDonald's response to similar health laws in the U.S. we'd expect the corporation to respond as it long has: it will fight tooth and nail to continue marketing to children," she said, citing how McDonalds had continued providing toys in San Francisco – despite a ban against providing toys along with meals high in fat, salt, and sugar – by introducing a nominal fee.
On Wednesday night, the Associated Press reported that toys were still being sold with McDonald's Happy Meals — known as "Cajitas Felices" in Spanish.
The latest batch of toys – derived from the new Ice Age 4 movie – were a major draw for 4-year-old Florencia Moraga, who was playing with her toys with her father at a restaurant in downtown Santiago.
"I loooove McDonald's because of the toys in the Happy Meal!" Florencia said.
Her father Ricardo Moraga told AP that he normally took his daughter every two weeks to the fast-food chain, but would not come back if she becomes overweight.
"She's healthy, skinny, but a kid with obesity was just sitting next to us. If I were his father I wouldn't bring him here," he said.