Appealing Burger King and McDonald’s Advertising: Catholic Reaction

Between attacks on the Catholic faith and false advertising: is there any merit to “junk food”?

The expression “junk food”, in English, can be literally translated as “junk food”. The creation of the term is attributed to Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in 1972, to refer critically to foods that, in general, contain reduced levels of nutrients, but high content of saturated fats, sugars and calories.

“Eat crap”

The concept of “junk food” has wide application, ranging from soft drinks and snacks to fried foods, candies and industrialized cookies, as well as “fast food” such as hamburgers and fries. In Brazilian Portuguese, eating “junk food” is popularly described, in a self-explanatory way, as “comer porcarrias”.

Although the occasional consumption of junk food does not necessarily lead to serious health problems, the habit of eating it regularly triggers strong warning signs. In excess, junk food offers risks such as the development of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, for example.

“Mummified” food?

The use of chemical preservatives is another aspect so controversial that it has become folklore.

In its defense, McDonald’s refutes claims about disproportionate use of chemical preservatives, saying that the unusual “life” of its snacks is due to preparation processes in which most of the moisture is eliminated. Whatever the explanation, attention is usually drawn to the fact that, unlike foods that decompose naturally in short spaces of time, there are cases of snacks from this network that “resist” over…decades.

There is, by way of illustration, a “copy” of a McDonald’s snack that was exposed for a few years at the National Museum of Iceland: it is the last package of hamburger and fries sold by the chain in that country, where the cafeterias were closed. in 2009. Icelandic Hjortur Smarason bought the combo to store it and check how long it would take for the snacks to decompose. Smarason kept it in a plastic bag in his garage – but as the months passed, he didn’t notice any changes. In 2012, he delivered the hamburger to the National Museum of Iceland, which, a few years later, returned it to Smarason on the grounds that the institution was unable to preserve a hamburger. “I think they were wrong, because this hamburger preserves itself”, replied Smarason, who kept the “delicacy” exposed to the public at the Snotra House hostel, in the south of the country.

It was not an isolated case. In 1995, Australians Eduard Nitz and Casey Dean, aged between 13 and 14, bought McDonald’s snacks for themselves and a friend, Jono, who did not show up. The young people decided to save the hamburger for Jono, but after 6 months, they saw that the snack still hadn’t decomposed. The months turned into no less than 20 years until Casey was interviewed by Channel 10, in 2015, and took the opportunity to show the public the sandwich with cheese kept in a box: “It’s solid as a brick”, recorded the hamburger guardian, adding that the appearance of the snack, however, still remained that of an “ordinary fast-food hamburger that people consume every day”.

What would seem to be the culmination, however, came to be amazingly surpassed by a surreal “discovery” made a few days ago, in April 2022. On the 16th, the American couple Rob and Gracie Jones were renovating their home in Crystal Lake , 80 kilometers from Chicago, when they found a McDonald’s bag that had been forgotten for absurd 60 years behind a bathroom wall. In statements to CNN, Gracie said that “Rob was replacing the old toilet paper accessory when he noticed a piece of cloth rolled up inside the wall”. When they opened the bag, they found, in disbelief, two hamburger cartons and “some half-eaten fries”, which were “crunchy and brown”. Researching the logo on the bag, they concluded that it was used by McDonald’s between 1955 and 1961. They also discovered that one of the chain’s cafeterias in their area was built on the street of their house in 1959, the same year that the house itself had been built. .

“Addictive” properties?

In addition to producing this “phenomenon” of decades of conservation that, for many people, resembles nothing less than “mummification”, the artificial intervention in this type of “junk food” makes use of ingredients that powerfully enhance the flavor in order to enhance maximum the “frequent desire” to eat this type of food.

In fact, research carried out at Children’s Hospital in Boston found that frequent consumption of junk food encourages an increasingly exacerbated consumption habit of these same foods. There are studies (such as this one, available on the US government’s National Library of Medicine portal) that indicate that the combination of sugars and fats can stimulate the same parts of the brain that are aroused by illicit drugs – which draws attention to the potential literally “addictive” properties of this type of food.

The trump card of “taste”

With so many characteristics that are not “stimulating” for those who consider them carefully, “junk food” depends radically on the artificial potentiation of “taste” as an asset to survive in the market – especially in a market that is increasingly awakening to the serious damages of bad food. .

And, for the maximum effectiveness of this trump card, the role of advertising is decisive – which, however, has slipped badly.

“Junk Advertising”

A few days ago, McDonald’s was forced to remove from its menu, throughout Brazil, the sandwiches of a line ostensibly publicized as McPicanha because, look at that, they didn’t contain a measly gram of picanha.

The company received notifications from the Ministry of Justice and Procon-SP, which demanded explanations. The National Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (Conar) also announced that it would investigate McDonald’s advertising campaign about the alleged steak sandwich without sirloin. McDonald’s Brasil, in a statement, apologized “if the name chosen raised doubts” and sought to justify itself by claiming that the sandwich had been named in reference to an “exclusive picanha-flavored sauce”.

A few days later, one of McDonald’s biggest competitors in the world, the Burger King chain, admitted that its Whooper Ribs sandwich has no rib. The network confirmed to InfoMoney that this hamburger is made with a pork palette and “has 100% natural rib aroma in its composition without any artificial ingredients”. However, Burger King maintains that it did not engage in misleading advertising because it “always communicated clearly” that the Whooper Ribs did not contain ribs in the burger. The supposed clarity, however, is questionable: in the video advertising piece about this snack, one of the characters comments: “Beef hamburger, right?”, to which the presenter responds: “Meat grilled over the fire with pork rib flavor”. Put this way, it’s information that lends itself to dubious interpretation.

Burger King mocks Christ in the middle of Holy Week

The dubious publicity of this same junk food chain mocked Christ in the middle of Holy Week in Spain, and then presented a ragged apology that reflects the shabby pattern of first teasing to generate buzz and, in the face of negative reactions, claiming, hypocritically, that he “did not intend to offend anyone”.

The chain’s vegetarian product promotion campaign attacked one of the most sensitive and beloved pillars of the Catholic faith: the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. The advertisements explicitly mimicked the sacred words of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper, with which He instituted the Sacrament of His Body and Blood given in sacrifice for the redemption of mankind:

“I took and ate them all. There’s no meat. 100% vegetarian. 100% flavor. Big King Vegetable”.

Another advertisement, along the same lines of irreverence and religious insensitivity, showed the phrase “Flesh of my flesh”, but crossing out the word “flesh” and replacing it with “vegetable”.

The mediocre advertising campaign, predictably, outraged millions of Catholics in the country and generated public criticism from lay faithful and clergy. Archbishop José Ignacio Munilla, Bishop of the Diocese of Orihuela-Alicante, commented that “it seems that the loss of culinary taste and the lack of respect for religious sentiments go hand in hand”. The negative reactions went viral and the hashtag #BoicotBurgerKing gained reach on social media.

Burger King then appealed to the well-worn standard justification that “it was never intended to offend anyone”:

“We apologize to all those who were offended by our campaign aimed at promoting our vegetarian products during Holy Week. Our intention was never to offend anyone and an immediate withdrawal from the campaign has already been requested.”

The pathetic note of “apologies” was carried on Easter Sunday by Burger King’s official account in Spain, but it didn’t convince Catholics.

In fact, who in their right mind can believe that, after 2,000 years of Christianity, particularly in countries with the most deeply rooted Christian history and culture, a global brand, with decades of experience in the market and in advertising, would go from fact that we are unaware of the fundamental importance of the Most Holy Eucharist at the very core of the faith of more than a billion people?

Catholic reaction: rethinking habits

The Catholic reaction to the episodes involving these “junk food” chains is not limited to deploring the attack on religious sensibility perpetrated by Burger King’s Spanish Holy Week campaign.

To begin with, it is worth remembering that taking care of one’s own health responsibly is a Christian virtue constantly emphasized by the Church. Catholic doctrine recalls that gluttony is a capital sin. Being a sin, it consists of the act of irresponsibly eating, going beyond what is necessary for healthy nutrition or even going against healthy nutrition, giving in to the inordinate pleasure of eating as an end in itself. And being a capital sin, gluttony is the “head” of other sins, since the term “capital” in this context refers to the fact that this type of addiction leads to others, in an increasing cycle in which one weakness attracts the next. . The destructive potential of the sin of gluttony is well evoked by St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians, in which he mentions those “whose god is the belly” (cf. Phil 3:19).

In addition, Catholics have before their conscience the responsibility of evaluating whether the cafeterias of these “junk food” chains deserve their money from an ethical perspective, given the episodes in which the advertising of these companies has been appealing, in a lighthearted way. , to expedients that range from attacks on religious sensibilities to information that grossly misleads hamburger ingredients.

It doesn’t hurt to reflect: in addition to the alleged “flavor” artificially enhanced, is there any merit to “junk food” that is greater than its losses?

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