An Arbroath youth worker is hoping to take on the fast food giants in an attempt to cut down on childhood obesity.
Lewis McMartin, 36, wants to see promotions in restaurants such as McDonald’s banned in Scotland, saying rewarding people in this way fuels an NHS crisis.
He said something needs to change after seeing children going “wild” for free food during McDonald’s popular Monopoly promotion – even though it is aimed at over-18s.
‘It is like winning points at an arcade’
Monopoly is an annual promotion McDonald’s runs, based on the popular board game, where people can peel off stickers on their food packaging to win prizes – often more food for free.
Mr McMartin said: “When it comes to reward schemes it is like children at an arcade winning points.
“But with Monopoly they are getting excited about winning another burger or another ice cream when they already have that in front of them.
“One time I was watching someone getting food with their stickers and the kids around her were getting so excited at how much they were going to get.
“They were going wild and it beggars belief that fast food chains can offer this.”
Only last year a public poll by The Sun found 71% of people end up buying more food when Monopoly is on at McDonald’s.
He added: “The NHS is on its knees and eating lots of this kind of food leads to obesity and other health concerns and then it is left to the NHS to fix it.”
Mr McMartin said: “I have a chronic health condition with my pancreas so I am not able to eat big portions.
“But years ago I would find myself going to McDonald’s and instead of buying a medium meal I would buy a large one so I could get more stickers.
“But that just made my condition more painful and made McDonald’s richer.”
‘I felt I needed to do something’
The youth worker has submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament, calling for rewards systems like Monopoly to be prohibited.
He said: “Instead of sitting and moaning about it to my friends and whoever else would listen, I went right to the Scottish Government.
“They said they wanted to do something but can’t because they don’t have the powers from Westminster.”
He said that was when he decided to launch a petition.
Mr McMartin added: “I don’t know if it will make a difference, but I felt I needed to do something rather than moaning and having it irritate me.”
Could the ban work?
The Scottish Retail Consortium said any new regulation in this area could extend to local chains such as Stephen’s Bakery and Tower Bakery, as well as convenience stores with hot food counters like Scotmid and The Coop.
It could also affect independent businesses such as chip shops, Chinese and Indian takeaways, sandwich bars and coffee shops if they offer any loyalty schemes.
Consortium director David Lonsdale, said: “Diet is only one factor which contributes to obesity.
“Consuming food in moderation should go hand in hand with physical activity – which some retailers support directly through initiatives and programmes – which must also be seen as a key part of healthy living.
“Prohibiting customer reward schemes would push up costs for consumers even further, at a time when the cost of food has soared due to global factors and with retailers facing a veritable gamut of regulatory burdens and initiatives from government.”
McDonald’s UK was approached for comment.