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Burger Craving 8-Year-Old Drives to McDonald's

Crafting processed foods to appeal to children and then targeting them with slick advertisements can have unexpected consequences. According to Fox News, the cravings for a McDonald’s cheeseburger were too strong for one 8-year-old boy. The result was a bizarre caper that, although amusing at face value, also illustrates the hold that cravings and processed food can have on a child.

The incident took place in Ohio. While his parents were asleep, an 8-year-old boy stole the keys to his father’s van and drove with his younger sister to the local McDonald’s for a cheeseburger. It was the impetuous decision of a child but not a spur-of -the-moment lark. Reports made it clear that he was motivated by an overpowering craving for a McDonald’s cheeseburger and that he prepared for the drive by studying traffic safety videos on YouTube. 

Much is being made of his expert driving. He obeyed all traffic signals and attempted to pay with change from his piggy bank. At first, the sight of two children driving a car and paying from a piggy bank appeared to be a prank to the McDonald’s employees. The police became involved when they realized the children’s parents were nowhere in the vicinity. The children did get to eat cheeseburgers while waiting to be picked up by their grandparents.  

There is no question fast food and junk food marketers are extremely adept at drumming up interest in their unhealthy products. One of their most effective strategies is to target children. Ideally, this will result in children who pressure and cajole their parents into making unhealthy purchases. This is called the “Tantrum Factor” and is designed to embarrass you in public until you give in to your child’s demands. The pressure is compounded by the fact that fast food and junk food items are engineered to be physically addictive.

The avenues for marketing have grown exponentially over the past 30 years and are no longer restricted to TV ads. Kids are now exposed to clever marketing via brand licensing, product placement, schools, stealth marketing, viral marketing, DVDs, games and internet. There’s a brand in front of your child’s face nearly every moment of every day.

Targeted marketing is necessary because fewer parents are agreeing to feed their child a disease-inducing diet of fast food. The manufacturers of these products manipulate children remorselessly to create customers for life. The lifespan and health of their valued customers is apparently not a major consideration. Nearly 40 percent of children's diets come from added sugars and unhealthy fats.

The fallout from these predatory marketing practices is staggering. One study from British researchers revealed that kids who ate a predominantly processed food diet at age 3 had lower IQ scores. Along with the potential for lowered IQ, a junk-food diet can also set the stage for asthma, eczema and a variety of allergies, inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases. In fact, most of the leading diseases plaguing the U.S. are diet-related, including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

The vast maze of contradictory and often inaccurate diet information may be one reason that there is still a market for McDonald’s. If you want to get your facts straight, my nutrition plan is an excellent starting point. The key to a healthy diet is to ditch processed junk entirely. Instead you should consume exclusively wholesome and nourishing whole foods. 
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