McDonald's Promises to Remove Soda From Happy Meals—But For Real This Time

Turns out, the company's previous pledge to stop promoting soda to kids wasn't entirely truthful.
Happy Meals will eventually phase out soda for juice, milk and water. (Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images)
Oct 12, 2013· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

On September 26, McDonald's, in conjunction with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, released a statement announcing the company would stop marketing, promoting and featuring soda as a beverage choice on its Happy Meal menus. Instead, it would only promote water, milk and juice.

And so the world rejoiced. Okay, not entirely—it's still a Happy Meal, but with soda removed from the menu at least it would be less unhealthy, right? Not exactly.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which went to the trouble of reading the fine print on McDonald's announcement, what the company actually agreed to do was remove pictures of soda from its Happy Meal advertisements and in-store signage—but the sugary drinks would remain listed on its kids' meal menu boards.

CSPI quickly cried "false advertising!", arguing that if the company is keeping soda on the kids' menu, it is in fact promoting it as a drink for kids. McDonald's CEO Don Thompson—who earlier this year was publicly shamed by a nine-year-old girl for marketing unhealthy food to children—actually agreed.

As a result, on October 11, McDonald's released an updated agreement, specifying this time that soda will be phased out of its kid-targeted meals altogether, as part of its three and five-year plans to promote better nutritional choices to its smallest customers.

As much as the cola conglomerates would like the public to believe otherwise, soda has long been linked to increased incidents of obesity and diabetes in children and adults. CSPI is hoping that other fast-food chains—looking at you, Burger King and Wendy's—will follow suit and remove sugary sodas from their own kids' meal lineups.

So is this the start of a healthier new McDonald's? Let's not get crazy—no. The company has been suffering through an identity crisis of late; on the one hand, trying to assuage critics by promoting its healthier menu options, while on the other, phasing out some of those options because let's face it, (almost) no one goes to McDonald's for the salad.