March 30th, 2010
11:31 AM ET

Group tells Ronald McDonald to take a hike

By Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

A corporate watchdog group that got rid of Joe Camel is after another icon - this time, its target is tall, red and happy.

Corporate Accountability International plans to host a retirement party for Ronald McDonald as it releases a report Wednesday that basically says,  "We’re not loving it. " The report calls for McDonald’s to stop using the iconic clown.

“For nearly 50 years, Ronald McDonald has hooked kids on unhealthy foods spurring a deadly epidemic of diet-related diseases,” said Deborah Lapidus, the senior organizer at Corporate Accountability International. “Ultimately the report makes the case that it’s time that McDonald’s stop directing fast food to kids.  Really, Ronald deserves a break and so do we.”

The group plans to hold events outside of McDonald's throughout the country and wants the fast food chain to stop using its corporate mascot.  The mascot makes children “vulnerable to manipulations to marketing” and turns them on to junk food at an age when childhood obesity rates  have soared, Lapidus said.

The group is employing the same strategy as it did to target the cigarette mascot in its “Send Joe Camel packing” campaign in the 1990s.

“A lot of our thinking is modeled on that campaign and success,” Lapidus said.  “We think of Ronald McDonald as a deep-fried Joe Camel for 21st century.”

McDonald’s does not appear to have plans to ditch the clown.  The company released a statement to CNN.com calling Ronald McDonald “a beloved brand ambassador for McDonald's” and described him as crucial to its charity efforts to help families of hospitalized children.

“Ronald also helps deliver messages to families on many important subjects such as safety, literacy, and the importance of physical activity and making balanced food choices. That's what Ronald McDonald is all about, which our customers know and appreciate,” according to the statement.

Lapidus said the fast food giant's message has  some “fundamental ironies.”

“McDonald’s charity does a lot of good and they do work to be commended,” she said.  “But there are serious question about the face of the charity that’s about kids getting better that also promotes unhealthy food to kids.  Could it not serve the same children without the cross promotion of burgers and fries which are affecting kids' health?”

Other McDonald’s characters, such as Hamburglar or Grimace (the purple triangular fellow) can rest easy.  Health advocates are not targeting them.

soundoff (512 Responses)
  1. Redirect Ronald

    I agree with "speak_the_truth". I also doubt they would have any reservations about using the Ronald McDonald house if their children needed it. Maybe McDonald's should redirect Ronald McDonald to specifically be the mascot for the RM House instead of the entire company in general. Then he would be viewed as a caring, helpful figure for children in need rather than a deceitful, smiling icon of grease-death and unhealthy habits.

    June 4, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. LiveFreeor

    Let's get outraged about smoking cancer sticks and eating bad beef, but not think twice about killing millions of our children by abortion or millions of other people with our trillion dollar military.

    June 4, 2010 at 15:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. parentsaretoblame

    The food industry and parents are to blame for childhood obesity. The lack of quality and nutritious food sold at McDonald's can be purchased at any grocery store. How many brands of french fries and chicken nuggets are sold at the super market. There is a whole aisle devoted to selling soda at most grocery stores. Everyday children are exposed to ads on television that promote poor dietary choices. The food industry attempts to mask unhealthy food by labeling the food with words such as "organic" or contains "whole grain". You can't tell me that organic cheetos are much healthier for your kids than non-organic cheetos. Many unhealthy foods that are now labeled "contains whole grain" contain very little whole grain. Look at the ingredients. If it one of the last items listed, it contains very little. Don't let the food indutry fool you. Most of these companies do not care about your childs' nutrition, but rather only look to make a quick buck. You don't see very many 5 year olds in the supermarket buying unhealthy food that they want. Parents should bear most of the blame. They purchase the food that they give to their children. Poor food choices by parents result in childhood obesity. Parents need to take time to make food for their children, rather than opening a can or box. Many nutritious meals can be made in under 20 minutes. I have two small children that do not drink soda of high fructose corn syrup juice. Do they ever go to McDonald's? Yes, once or twice per month. I could go on and on.

    June 4, 2010 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Boris

    The real cause of obesity is not as much fast food, it is inactivity. When I was a kid, my source of entertainment was riding for hours on my bike, walking through the woods, swimming in the creek, playing outside. Now kids entertainment consisits of video games, cell phones, facebook, and countless other electronic destractions. This is the real cause. It leads to a downward spiral where a person gains wait and then yes, they will eat those super sized meals. 50 years ago a McDonalds meal consisted of a small hamburger, small fries, and 8 oz soda. That was an adult meal!

    June 5, 2010 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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  6. Thomas Romberg

    Ronald Mcdonad need to be for all ages and not just for kids . If Ronald Mcdoanld retires then McDonalds needs to go to . McDonalds is Ronald McDonalds home . How dare we attack Ronald Mcdonald .

    September 4, 2010 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. GJ

    In the 50's we were warned of Soviets taking charge of how children were raised, we swore never in America...fast forward 2011.. now is America any different if we let the few steal the joy of a small toy out of our childrens Happy Meals. Ronald McDonald has brought joy to our children and grand children.. let us make the choices for our children. Long live Ronald McDonald and the American Dreams

    May 18, 2011 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Victoria

    So because idiots don't know how to feed their children EVERY child should be punished. Get over yourselves, removing Ronald McDonald isn't going to stop idiots from feeding their kids nothing but junk food. People need to learn that a kid will eat what is on his plate if he is given no other choice. Don't be a short order cook for your kids and teach them to eat properly, this is YOUR job quit copping out with the easier thing. When my kids get their monthly happy meal they better get a damn toy because why else am I paying more for their meal than my own?!?!?!

    May 21, 2011 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Heather Terry

    These people need to stop pointing fingers in the wrong direction! It is a parents JOB to teach their kids good eating habits. This company needs to be reminded of that... They learn from US... So all you lazy parents out there stop buying fast food and give your kids something healthy most of the time. This company needs to look at what McDonald's is doing ... They offer healthy sides to the kids meal (apples) and you have a choice soda or milk. Every menu item has a calorie content... Including the happymeals! Fast food doesn't promote child obesity... Lazy parenting does! Stop parking your kids in front of the TV or video games because you don't want to deal with them... Play a game with them, take them to the park. I bet if you see an obese child you will find an obese parent.

    May 29, 2011 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
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