Should McDonald’s Retire Ronald and (Gasp) Do Away With Happy Meals?
Ronald McDonald could be headed for retirement if 550 health professionals and organizations have their way. The Wall Street Journal reports that groups including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition have signed a letter calling on McDonald’s Corp. to stop marketing junk food to kids and retire Ronald McDonald.
Imagine a world without Happy Meals…
The letter appears today in full-page ads in the Chicago Sun-Times, New York Metro, Boston Metro, San Francisco Examiner, Minneapolis City Pages and Baltimore City Paper. Other signers include well-known nutritionists and doctors including Andrew Weil, the doctor who directs the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. The campaign was organized by Corporate International Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog group.
Besides calling for McDonald’s to stop its targeted marketing of the likes of Happy Meals to children, the letter also asks the Golden Arches to produce a report that assesses its “health footprint.” While the consumer can access nutrition information for the McDonald’s menu online and in its stores, the letter’s signers are requesting much more detailed information, specifically:
A shareholder’s resolution, submitted by the watchdog group and The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, calls on McDonald’s to tally the financial impact of fighting various measures like the San Francisco ordinance passed last year that established nutritional standards for kids’ meals that come with toys. It will be voted on at McDonald’s annual meeting on Thursday.
Issuing such a report would show customers how those dollars they spend on McThis and McThat menu items are being used to fight legal battles about the nutritional content of McFood.
McDonald’s has responded with its own statement:
“We are committed to responsible advertising and take our communications to children very seriously. We understand the importance of children’s health and nutrition, and are committed to being part of the dialogue and solution. We serve high quality food, and our Happy Meals offer choice and variety in portions just for kids. Parents tell us they appreciate our Happy Meal choices.”
Many a parent (myself included) has found her or himself indeed “appreciating” McDonald’s. It’s reliable, there are Golden Arches everywhere, they’re open morning noon and night and one knows few children who will turn down McAnything. Sure, the portions for Happy Meals are “just for kids” but, as any parents know, the child who chooses the cauliflower over the chicken nuggets is a rare one indeed.
As for the quality of McDonald’s menu items: If said items are of such “high quality,” what’s the need to market them at all? Shouldn’t the (as McDonald’s claims) delicious taste of its food be enough of a draw? Who cares about the plastic toys?
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Photo by Valerie Everett