From Green Right Now Reports

If you’ve ever taken a pre-schooler out to eat, you’ll know that toys are a powerful lure. We adults consider appetizers, drinks, entrees, pricing, calories and ambiance, evaluating a matrix that leads us to lunch.

But five-year-olds are at the mercy of their bellies, and the pull of shiny baubles. A five-year-old wants food and treats.

The Human Torch, under fire from coalition against commercializing childhood

The American fast food industry has complied, and then some. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King — they’ve all got the goodies. And they compete to offer the most attractive (often tied to movies and TV shows) toys for tots. (Exceptions to this rule include Chik-fila’s educational handouts.)

Can it go too far? There have been times these toys fell apart and had to be recalled. Recently, McD’s had to recall a Scooter Bug that some kids choked on. Now The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says McD’s has violated common sense by stuffing overtly macho action figures in the Happy Meals.

It’s an issue with niche audience — many parents won’t see the harm in these toys. But the CCFC says they are an extreme example of a larger problem in which kids’ lives are over-commercialized via toys, advertisements and incessant ads for fast food and snacks aimed at hapless children.

The coalition has launched a letter-writing campaign to demand that McDonald’s pull its latest Happy Meal promotion featuring Marvel comic book heroes. The complaint: That the giveaway action figures encourage aggressive behavior. The toys McDonald’s is handing out include “The Thing”, which roars “It’s Clobberin’ Time!” when a child presses a button, and “The Human Torch”, a man who appears to be on fire (no, he’s not screaming “help me” — he’s a super action figure).

“It’s bad enough to use junk toys to sell children on junk food,” said CCFC’s Director Dr. Susan Linn in a statement. “But now, for preschool boys, a so-called happy meal at McDonald’s features the horrifying spectacle of a man engulfed in flames and a menacing figure that explicitly spurs them to violence.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest also does not like how restaurants use toys to reel in kiddos for a fat-filled, low-fiber meal, and has threatened to sue the restaurant chain for directly marketing to kids.

McDonald’s has fired back vigorously to the CSPI criticism, defending Happy Meals has including some healthy items like milk and apple slices and characterizing its practice of offering toys as all part of the fun, family experience.

Dr. Linn’s reply to that defense, “If clobberin’ time is McDonald’s idea of family fun, it’s time to steer clear of the Golden Arches.”

As for their environmental impact, these toys are a drain on resources not because they’re Marvel action figures, but because so many of them will fall into the category of worthless plastic junk about five minutes after the family van pulls away from the drive-through.

And we’re not sure about the emissions from Mr. Torch man either.