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McDonald’s Fined $1.8 Million In Brazil For Toy Giveaway
Vol. 874 
December 8, 2011

Fast food giant McDonald’s is facing a fine of $1.8 million from the government in Sao Paolo after a consumer activist group complained about the company giving away promotional toys along with Happy Meals. The Instituto Alana, a Brazilian nonprofit, claimed that the free toys with the kids’ meals "distorts values" and encourages "unhealthy eating habits" among children. After logging its complaint to Procon-SP, part of the Sao Paulo government's Department of Justice and Defense of Citizens, the fine was levied against McDonald’s.

Arcos Dorados, McDonald's largest franchisee in Latin America, said in a statement that the company has already filed an appeal of the fine, and is awaiting a final decision that is expected within three months. While McDonald’s also said that it does not discuss the details of unsettled lawsuits, the company added that it adheres to voluntary regulations agreed to by other major food companies operating within Brazil and other global markets.

In fact, McDonald’s has already overcome the complaints of Intituto Alana. The organization recently filed a similar grievance about promotional toy giveaways with Brazil's self-regulatory body, Conar, but it was rejected. Brazilian business magazine Exame reported in June that Conar's ruling said that the Instituto Alana "doesn't have the Stalinist right to decide how [parents should] raise children and form their habits."

McDonald’s and other fast-food companies are also facing criticism of promotional toy giveaways with high-calorie kids’ meals in the United States. A new law went into effect last week in San Francisco that bans restaurants from giving away any toys with kids’ meals that don’t meet certain calorie thresholds. Local McDonald’s in San Francisco have decided to charge 10 cents for the toys they hand out with Happy Meals, saying that they’re donating the proceeds of those sales to charity.

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