SAO PAULO Charging that toys sold with meals in fast-food outlets can lead children to develop bad eating habits, a Brazilian prosecutor on Monday asked a judge to ban such sales nationally at chains including McDonald's and Burger King.
The move comes amid global concern over the link between some fast food and illnesses such as diabetes, as the U.S. Congress considers requiring chain restaurants to disclose calories on their menus to help fight endemic obesity.
Prosecutor Marcio Schusterschitz, a federal prosecutor in Brazil's Sao Paulo state, said fast-food toy promotions encourage children to buy high-fat meals through "the abusive creation of emotional associations" that turn them into life-long eaters of high-fat foods.
A judge must first decide whether or not to hear the request, which targets combination meals offered by McDonald's, Burger King and Brazilian chain Bob's that typically include hamburgers or chicken nuggets, french fries and soft drinks.
"It is necessary to remove toys that are used to leverage the sale of food that has little nutritional value," said the statement. "The (meals) offered are promoted with the clear objective of increasing juvenile consumption of fast food."
A spokesman at his office said previous attempts to regulate fast-food toys, including having them sold separately from the meals, did reduce aggressive marketing by the chains.
Reuters was not immediately able to contact Brazilian representatives of the restaurant chains for comment.
A Brazilian non-profit group last year complained to prosecutors that the promotion of the toys violated the country's consumer protection legislation.
McDonald's Corp's Brazilian website currently features a promotion with pictures of a Spiderman action figure and plastic toys with the logo Littlest Pet Shop apparently linked to an animated television series of the same name.
The Bob's website shows kid's meals offered with bottles bearing the logo of cartoon character Scooby-Doo, while Burger King features Transformer toys.
(Reporting by Eduardo Simoes, Writing by Brian Ellsworth)