McDONALD'S was accused yesterday of enticing young children into its outlets cynically to boost company profits, writes Danny Penman.
The allegations were made in the High Court by two environmentalists accused of libelling the giant American fast-food chain.
McDonald's is suing them for allegedly writing, publishing and distributing a leaflet claiming the burger chain is responsible for destruction of the rainforests, Third World famine, and produces food which causes cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The two defendants, Helen Steel and Dave Morris, conducting their own defence, deny libel and argue their claims are a fair comment on the company's activities.
The pair said that Ronald McDonald, a clown character, is used to encourage children to eat fast food "high in sugar, salt and fat".
Ms Steel, cross-examining Paul Preston, chief executive of McDonald's UK, asked: "Don't you consider it a cynical exploitation of children to use a well-known clown to drum up business for your company?" Mr Preston denied the accusation, claiming: "It's a spokesman for children he's a character that is known and loved by children. All you have to do is watch him with his magic acts."
He said later the clown represents "a fun character, he is not a salesman".