SANTIAGO, Chile — A new law in Chile aims to take some of the fun out of fast-food by forcing McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and other restaurants to stop including toys and other goodies with children's meals.
The companies are still using toys to draw in Chile's increasingly chubby children more than a month after the ban took effect on June 7, Sen. Giudo Girardi said as he filed a formal complaint Wednesday with the health ministry.
"These businesses know that this food damages the health of children and they know that the law is in effect. They're using fraudulent and abusive means," Girardi said.
The complaint also targets makers of cereal, popsicles and other products that attract children with toys, crayons or stickers, as well as markets that sell the food.
If Chile's health ministry upholds his allegations, the companies could be forced to remove the goodies or face nominal fines.
The Associated Press left messages seeking reaction with spokesmen for McDonald's Corp., Burger King Worldwide Inc. and KFC's owner, Yum Brands Inc.
Girardi said he wrote the law because nearly a quarter of Chile's 6-year-olds now suffer from childhood obesity – and that its passage came despite seven years of industry lobbying.
"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.
McDonald's Happy Meals – marketed as "Cajitas Felices" in Spanish – have been a major draw for 4-year-old Florencia Moraga, who was playing with her Ice Age movie toys Wednesday night with her father Ricardo at a restaurant in downtown Santiago.
"I loooove McDonald's because of the toys in the Happy Meal!" Florencia said.
Moraga said he takes 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.
The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest sued McDonalds over using toys to market its food to children in 2010, but the claim was dismissed in April. San Francisco banned restaurants last year from providing toys along with meals high in fat, salt, and sugar, but McDonalds has continued providing toys there by charging consumers a small fee for the goodies. A similar measure was defeated in New York.
The experience of both U.S. cities helped Girardi craft his "junk food law," his spokeswoman, Carol Bortnick, said.
Sara Deon, an activist with Corporate Accountability International, campaigned for the measures in San Francisco and New York, and praised Chile for passing its law. But she said "Chilean public servants should have no illusions" about 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. "It will take every opportunity to blame parents for today's health epidemic. Marketing to kids is core to McDonald's brand and to its bottom line."
Michael Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina contributed to this report.
10: Chick-fil-A, $4,051,000,000
Although Chick-fil-A has recently found itself <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/30/chick-fil-a-brand-approval-rating-anti-gay-controversy_n_1719359.html" target="_hplink">embroiled in social controversy</a>, it managed to make the top ten in 2011.
9: KFC, $4,500,000,000
Although KFC lost 275 locations last year, they still managed to remain in the top ten in 2011.
8: Pizza Hut, $5,500,000,000
Pizza Hut came out on top in a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/27/pizza-hut-ads_n_911106.html#s316917&title=Super_Sincere" target="_hplink">study on ad effectiveness in 2011</a>. An ad for the chain's Ultimate Stuffed Crust Pizza made consumers the hungriest.
7: Dunkin' Donuts, $6,500,000,000
With 115 new locations, Dunkin' Donuts had the second largest location growth in 2011 (beaten by Subway by an insane margin -- they opened 872 new locations).
6: Taco Bell, $7,000,000,000
Taco Bell's 2011 started out turbulently, with a well-publicized lawsuit surrounding the content of their beef. They counteracted the suit with (among other measures) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/28/taco-bell-beef-meat-lawsuit-ads_n_815303.html" target="_hplink">full page ads in the <em>New York Times</em> defending their meat</a>, managing to right the ship and have a great year -- even before the launch of this year's famous <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/doritos-locos-most-popular_n_1571160.html" target="_hplink">Doritos Loco Taco</a>.
5: Burger King, $8,400,000,000
Burger King hopped on the avocado band wagon last year, which was only one of many changes the chain underwent, including the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/19/burger-king-de-thrones-king_n_931208.html" target="_hplink">dethroning of their mascot, The King</a>.
4: Wendy's, $8,500,000,000
It seemed likely that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/19/wendys-burger-king-number-two_n_1364514.html" target="_hplink">Wendy's would dethrone Burger King to become the second biggest burger chain in the U.S.</a> -- and it turns out, they totally did.
3: Starbucks, $9,750,000,000
Starbucks closed the most locations of any of the chains in the top ten last year, shuttering 310 locations. In 2011 the chain also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/17/starbucks-new-size-trenta-graphic_n_810083.html" target="_hplink">rolled out its insane, 31oz Trenta size</a>.
2: Subway, $11,400,000,000
Subway was recently crowned both <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/10/best-fast-food-restaurants_n_1507319.html" target="_hplink">America's favorite fast food restaurant</a> and its <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/07/worlds-largest-restaurant-chain-subway_n_832511.html" target="_hplink">biggest chain</a>. Opening 872 new locations in 2011, their total number of U.S. locations rose to 24,722, nearly beating McDonald's and Starbucks combined.
1: McDonald's, $34,172,000,000
Well, no surprise here, right? While no longer the largest fast food chain in America, McDonald's is surely the most successful -- their 2011 U.S. revenue beats Subway and Starbucks' totals combined. A recent American Consumer Satisfaction Index survey revealed that the chain is, however, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/mcdonalds-low-customer-satisfaction_n_1615606.html" target="_hplink">at the bottom in terms of customer satisfaction</a>, so McDonald's may not reign forever.