A study carried out by researchers from the New York University School of Global Public Health suggests that McDonald’s tends to direct its advertising on social networks to a greater extent to minors located in low-income countries, than to minors who are located in countries with higher income.
According to experts, this situation would have negative impacts on public health in lower-income countries.
The research, published in the specialized magazine on food BMJ Nutrition Prevention and Health, analyzed posts made by McDonald’s on Instagram in a sample of 15 high-, middle- and low-income countries, including the United States, Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, Canada, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Malaysia, Panama, Portugal, Romania, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
According to the study, over four months (the period that was analyzed), consumers in middle-income countries such as Egypt, India and Indonesia viewed an average of 108 posts.
In contrast, in higher income countries such as the United States, Canada and the United Arab Emirates, consumers saw an average of 43 posts in the same period.
According to specialists, these findings provide evidence on the possibility that social media posts by fast food chains, such as McDonald’s, have a significant impact in countries where access to healthy food options is scarcer.
The specialists also indicated that only 14% of the publications registered in high-income countries were about promotions or discounts, while in low-income countries, this type of publications comprised 40% of the total registered.
“The study provides preliminary, but crucial, information on the impact of advertising, a relatively under-studied area in nutrition research,” said Sumantra Ray, executive director of the UK’s Global Center for Health and Nutrition NNEdPro. who presented the study.
In a statement, the study authors recalled that social networks have a little studied influence on the eating habits of the population.
“As the use of social media grows, ads from fast food companies could have unprecedented effects on food choices, especially in low-income countries.
“By targeting certain ads to minors that include promotions, McDonald’s could exacerbate health problems in the most vulnerable countries,” said the specialists.
McDonald’s exercised its right of reply and noted that the study is not representative of global content published on social networks, and recalled that the company promotes actions to promote healthy eating, especially in children under 12 years.