Moscow, Mar 5: Russian officials sharply criticised US fast-food giants Coca-Cola and McDonald's today for their "unhealthy" products, comparing aggressive advertising campaigns to a war on citizens.
An aide to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took aim at the companies for their "super-calorific" products in a sideswipe at the United States at a time of high tension between the countries over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
"The aggressive marketing they carry out -- which has nothing to do with our culinary traditions -- is comparable to a war against our people," said Gennady Onishchenko, speaking to radio station Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei. Onishchenko was previously Russia's chief sanitation doctor, notorious for imposing sweeping bans on food imports from countries that were Moscow's political foes for alleged hygiene breaches.
Last year, he said Coca-Cola and Pepsi were "chemical weapons", lamenting that they were not on a list of foreign imports banned by Russia in retaliation for Western sanctions for Moscow's support of separatist rebels in Ukraine.
"Our children already drink more Coca-Cola than milk. Talking about McDonald's -- they need to change their menu and secondly the culture of food, not snacking or grabbing food, but proper nutrition for a Russian person," he added.
Also today, a senior ruling-party politician, Alexei Pushkov, urged McDonald's and Coca-Cola, which are both major employers and advertisers in Russia, to pull out of the country.
"Don't McDonald's and Coca-Cola want to support Obama's sanctions and rid us of their products? They would be true to their principles and we would be healthier," the head of the lower house of parliament's foreign affairs committee wrote on Twitter. This was not the first time that McDonald's has come into Moscow's crosshairs.
Russia, last year, launched sweeping health checks of more than 100 branches of McDonald's and the chain was forced to temporarily close branches including the landmark outlet on Moscow's Pushkin Square which was the first to open in the Soviet Union.
Russia denied that the high-profile checks into the fast-food brand that epitomises the American way of life were politically motivated. McDonald's closed its outlets in Crimea after Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula in March last year, as well as in areas of eastern Ukraine seized by the rebels. McDonald's earnings in Russia and Ukraine were battered in 2014 as a result of their weak currencies.