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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. speak_the_truth

    These activists spend to much time hunting. I'll guarantee if they ever needed a place to stay while their child was sick they'd have no problem going to the Ronald Mcdonald home. Who is next? Gordon's Fisherman?

    March 30, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. teekrul

    sounds retarded and a waste of time and money. parents should be controlling what and where children eat. Not fictional Characters. Parents need to accept responsibilites for their offspring

    March 30, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Susan

    Grow up and get over yourselves. Let us get rid of everything so parents and kids do not have to make any choices for themselves. Get rid of the clown, the aflac duck, the pilsbury dough boy, Mrs Butterworth, teddy bears with honey in them, the macaroni cheese dinosaur, the burger "King", the little girl from the Wendy ads, the gecko from geico, the tocann, the little talking shredded wheat.....

    Keep your kids in a closed room with no outside influences and the rest of us will go on with our lives like we have for the last 50+ years. I survived and so will my children and grandchildren. The world has a whole lot more to worry about than this.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. gary

    Too bad these poor kids that get 'hooked' on McDonald's don't have parents. I'm sure parents would be respoonsible enough to make sure their children ate properly. They would probably know how to say"no" to a child who wants to go to McDonalds too many times and, instead, feed them a proper diet at less cost, from home.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Ginger Blymyer

    It seems to me that Ronald could change the menu to being more healthy. They could figure out how to make their food healthy and educate the children and parents about how to eat in a healthy way. Did not they change the oil they fry their french fries. They could be baked, and somehow made to taste almost as good. Like Burger King the burgers could be broiled instead of fried. Of course we would have to get used to the little different taste. But I don't go there because I am always left with a stomach ache. I think we are used to the fast food, it has to be made healthy and appealing instead of running Ronald off.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Lincoln Brigham

    Attacks on the fast food chains always amuse me. Groups like these can't even properly identify which foods are the problem. It's not so much the burgers, the problem is the sodas and milkshakes. A burger is actually a benignly healthy food. Soda has no redeeming nutritional value at all. But a burger has high quality protein, got fruit, vegetables, seeds, fat (which essential to the diet unlike sugar).

    The problem with "Super Size Me" is that they never showed how much soda he drank.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. terry

    For goodness sakes don't these morons have anything better to do than to harrass a clown, Get a life you people and leave Ronald to his good deeds. Blaming him for "hooking" kids on junk food is stupid, at the least. This useless outfit should be directin their efforts at some real problems like Cheney's Haliburton company for murdering tens of thousands of people with the weapons and crap they sell to every known group.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Bob Smith

    Get a life!
    All of the good things the Ronald McDonald character has symbolized.. Like Ronald McDonald Houses, and other charity events. Smoking vs. taking your kid(s) to a hamburger joint one a week is two different ends of the scale of reality. What’s the matter, didn’t your mom and dad take you to McDonalds, etc. when you were a kid, so now the world needs to be punished for it. You probably didn’t get to watch Saturday morning cartoons, while eating SUGAR Frosted Flakes, cold pizza from the Friday nigh family movie and pizza night, or my favorite Cap’n Crunch either did you! I sure hate you be your kids.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Walt

    Face it ... RM is just creepy, too...

    March 30, 2010 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Eric

    We had Ronald 50 years ago. Did we have epidemic obesity then?

    March 30, 2010 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Bill

    Don't these folks have something useful to do? This isn't about health, it's about Micky D's being the big kid on the block. This "They're a large corporation therefor they are evil" mentality gets real old after awhile.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Drew

    Who's buying children the junk food? Not Ronald. Parents need to be more responsible with their children too. Ronald can just start promoting healty fare–keep him and use him as a new symbol of healthier eating. Pointing the finger at a clown? Give me a break!

    March 30, 2010 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Outland

    “For nearly 50 years, Ronald McDonald has hooked kids on unhealthy foods spurring a deadly epidemic of diet-related diseases,” said Deborah Lapidus

    So, your children have their own money and force you to take them to McDonalds.
    Or they hop on their bike or walk there just to eat every day.
    Uh, I Don't Think So. Don't blame the kids or McDonalds for your own negligence or inability to say NO!
    Parent's are the ones that take the responsibility for this. Not the food establishment or their mascot. That's just absurd.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Vic Romano

    Typical progressive drivel. Don't blame the absent parents or the "free range" children left to their own resources. Glad to see the "thief" Hamburglar can stay – I am sure his stealing is the fault of Glenn Beck and George Bush anyway.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Skillet

    What's next? Are they going to demand that no fast-food resturant is allowed to have a "Kids Meal" or include a toy with their meals? "McDonald [is] a deep-fried Joe Camel for 21st century.” Incorrect. There's no such thing as second-hand hamburger. “McDonald’s charity does a lot of good and they do work to be commended,” and since you expect them to lose the buisness of the extreme youth, wouldn't their ability to do good decrease?

    All in all, I agree with their right to protest what they percieve as evil, but I don't agree with them.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Gary P

    What about Burger King's King icon? What about Jack in the Box? What about Wendy's lil girl? And how about Kool Aids cartoon pitcher with a cup of sugar? What about all those TV commercials selling sugary children's cereal with toys? Where will this end? Parents should control their kids and their diets, not government. We already now have way too much government control. What a waste of money. Why can't we suggest or embaress McDonalds to only give their toys out in new "healthy heart Happy Meals" instead of "controlling" what people can say, do or eat? Media complaining of corporation's tatics often work and get companies to change when it's in the media but, forcing companies to do what we think is best? Come on. More control over free people?....IIIEEEEEE

    March 30, 2010 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tim L

    Ultimately it is up to the parent if kids have unhealthy eating traights. It's not because one corporation uses a clown, a king , or a pigtailed redheaded girl. Wow lets see it is the parents that make the money that takes their kids to these places. Does it ever stop with groups like these. I grew up in joe camels era of commericals to see a camel having a ciggerette in his mouth didnt make me go out and pick up smoking. nasty habbit for anyone to do. I go to mickeyd's hardees, wendys, burger king not because they have masscotts, but because they have a product that I enjoy. Lets take on the cool-aid jug guy because my kids drank his product and have a ton of cavities. Like I said when does it stop. It is a waste of time and money for this stuff to go to court.

    March 30, 2010 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Amanda

    You can market all you want to the kids, in the end....its the parents that are buying it for them.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. SoulardGuy

    I totally get Joe Camel. Smoking is bad and we shouldn't make it look cool. But Ronald McDonald? I don't think I've seen Ronald actually eat the food only dance around and have fun. I grew up just fine with Ronald. Parents should be "parents" and teach their kids about eatting healthy and making better choices. McDonalds isn't horrible for you unless you eat it frequently and this is true for a lot of foods. Don't blame the clown. He just wants to dance and sing. Blame the parents for not taking a responsible role in their childerns lives.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Jeff

    If they should be going after anything about McDonald's and fast food restaurants in general it should be the playgrounds that they put in their restaurants to get kids to come.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sheila

    You have to be kidding! A bunch of soccer moms with nothing to do want to ruin something once again! Ronald McDonald has been around for years, representing a charity McDonald's supports for children. Parents are responsible for children eating fast foods, not Ronald McDonald. You people need to get a grip!

    March 30, 2010 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Justin

    This seems a bit ridiculous to me. As mentioned above, the McDonald's charity does a lot of good around the world and Ronald's image is key to this. Besides, it's not like most children are able to drive or travel to the nearest McDonald's and buy a 700 calorie meal. Once again, this is one of those situations where parents are the ones who should be more accountable for their child's diet.

    In regards to teens and the like, I don't think Ronald really has any impact on their eating habits. He doesn't exactly appeal to them. I know when I was a teen didn't go to McDonald's simply because of a relation to Ronald.

    Additionally, I don't think it's very practical or even really sane to compare Ronald McDonald to Joe Camel. A Happy meal is one thing, but to put it on the same level as cancerous death sticks just doesn't seem reasonable to me.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Susan

    Whatever happened to parents' influence on their children? The problem is not having unhealthy icons, it's parents not being parents. They are the ones who have influence on children's eating habits. Blaming fat kids on something like Ronald McDonald is just a cop out for not wanting to take any responsibility. Parents are far too permissive in way too many areas. They also seem to forget they are the first influence on their children in other unhealthy choices like smoking and drinking.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Nate B

    OK. Now we have stepped off the cliff and we are falling! People have the right to destroy themselves however they see fit. I can agree that a cartoon character should not be the spokesperson for cigarettes, as children are supposed to have them, but fast food, these people are insane! Are you going to tell my five year old that Ronald McDonald won't be around anymore? When he was in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) Ronald McDonald came to the hospital and helped cheer up the kids raising thousands for the kids who can't afford treatment. Now, I am mad! I am personally going to find out what dirty secret Corporate Accountability International has to hide.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Greg

    Good grief! Little kids don't walk into McDonald's by themselves and buy their Happy Meals, their parents do. How about we have them take responsibility for the choices they make for their children rather than trying to pin it on the clown?

    March 30, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Nicole

    I think this is a little ridiculous...I don't ever remember going to McDonald's for the clown, and being 27, my childhood wasn't that long ago. In my family, when I was younger, McDonald's was considered a once and a while treat, which my brother and I were only allowed to have maybe once a month or every other month. I think it's time to stop putting the blame on logos and characters and start going after the people who are truly responsible, the parents. Children are not responsible for feeding themselves, they cannot get in cars and drive themselves to restaurants. And when I was able to drive, a Ronald statue on the playground wasn’t my draw to food. Many parents go to these places out of ease and laziness. McDonald’s is not meant to be consumed at every meal, it’s meant for when you need something fast. My parents had this crazy way of stopping us from eating too much fast food, we were told ”NO” and that it’s not healthy to have that food all the time. Parents, it’s time to step up and be parents, YOU are the adult, YOU are the role model, YOU are the ones that are supposed to be telling your children what is wrong and right. Let’s use some common sense.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Garry in Canada

    Give me a break! Don't blame MacDonald's. Blame the parents. It is the parents responsibility to ensure their children have a healthy diet. If you don't want your children eating fries and burger, don't give them any. It's called freedom of choice. I don't think parents need a nanny organization to tell them what to feed their childrfen.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. CHRIS

    Where does the craziness end in this country???? Next they'll be going after Tony the Tiger or the "Burger King" himself. It's parents that need to be watching what their children eat, lets start holding parents accountable. Everyone has a choice whether or not to eat at McDonalds. "Ronald McDonal" is not forcing or enticing anyone to eat the restuarant. Corporate Accountability International needs to get a life.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. cherie taylor

    Ronald McDonald does not make kids fat! Parents need to control what their off spring eat. This is another example of blaming someone (something) else for one's own failure. Take away McDonald's and something else will be blamed for overweight youth....ato chips, ice cream, Hershey bars. I raised 3 daughters and they are not and never have been overweight even though they had a Happy Meal every Friday from the time they were eating table food. Like with everything, MODERATION is key.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Kevin

    These Goody-two-shoes that want to destroy a brand make me sick.
    Does anyone honestly think that removing the "Clown" from McDonalds will make kids Exercise and stay thin?

    McDonalds markets a product that people like. These idiots just want to pin the ills of the world on a corporation rather then where it belongs. On the parents and the kids themselves.

    I don't, personally, frequent McDonalds very often because I and my kids prefer to eat healthier but on the rare occasions we are there I am apalled to see parents buying their kids Big Greasy Cheeseburgers and Supersizing the meal with a fries portion as big as their heads. That's just poor parenting.

    Stop blaming corporations for the bad choices made by youth and adult. Applaud them for being successful and start preaching self discipline and personal accountability to the losers out there that get fat and want to blame someone other then themselves.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Pam

    It would be even better if PARENTS controlled what their children ate. But that would mean that parents couldn't be ignorant of what is healthy and what is not healthy for their children. I brainwashed my kids into eating healthy...candy only on Holloween (with an exception here and there), lots of fruit and vegetables, whole wheat bread (white bread is not allowed in our house!) Burgers were always a special treat and not eaten on any regular basis. I enjoy a burger myself occassionally! Parents drive their kids to fast food places. Ronald McDonald doesn't! It's the role of the parents to make the good choices. Parenthood isn't a popularlity contest. It's for raising healthy, productive, decent adults (or does anyone think like that anymore?)

    March 30, 2010 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. nuts

    so instead of educating the children – we kill the clown ? – stuipdity doesn't make people fat – clowns do? unfeakinbelieveable

    March 30, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Brian

    YEAH! Give him the boot. I hate clowns, and a red and yellow clown is just ghastly. Not to mention that most kids recognize RM over their president.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Tim

    What a bunch of crap!!! Wish all I had to worry about was Ronald McDonald. Besides, I don't think a 5 year old earns any money to buy those unhealthy food choices at McD's. It's the parents, so go after them. Get real!!!

    March 30, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Mike

    Why is it that everyone wants to blame the corporations? Parents, show some personal responsibility and to quote Nancy Reagan, "Just say no."

    March 30, 2010 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Alana

    When or when are we going to make people responsible for their own actions? No one holds a gun to your head and makes you go to McDonald's. It is the parents job to teach their children to eat healthy. It is the job of the parent to keep kids from going to McDonald's if they don't want them eating fast foods. Just because Ronald McDonald is the mascot doesn't mean you have to take your child there. Use your parental discretion. Take responsibility. It isn't Ronald any more than it was Joe Camel who make people partake in unhealthy activities. It is the parental lack of teaching. I am tired of people changing everything and not letting me think for myself. If that is all people have to do is pick at this mascot then they need to get a life.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Chris

    Wow! Last time I checked parents are buying this food for their kids – not Ronald. Hold parents accountable for childhood obesity, not the clown.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. cf

    Ronald McDonald doesnt make people unhealthy; the choices people make do. Look at Subway: Jared claims to have lost a ton of weight by eating nothing but Subway sandwiches. But guess what: he didn't eat the monstrous sandwiches piled high with meat and cheese and toppings that you see in the commercial. He ate one six-inch lettuce sub per day. And that's all he ate. Now, you can go to McDonald's and just order lettuce on a bun (they'll make it for you), and if that's all you ate each day and coupled it with exercise, you would lost a ton of weight too.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Amy Robinson

    Really? This is ridiculous! What about the role of the parents in teaching children how to respond to temptations like a harmless, iconic clown? McDonald's in moderation can be a rewarding treat for children! And the work of Ronald McDonald to promote Ronald McDonald Houses is essential for families of sick children in hospitals. People need to stop being so narrow-minded. You cannot teach good, healthy behavior by eliminating what can be perceived as bad to some! You teach good, healthy behavior by teaching how to respond to temptations, enjoy in moderation, and delay gratification with rewards – like a trip to McDonalds for a cheeseburger, fries, and shake!

    March 30, 2010 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Kraig Rasool

    Its a new day folks and from kids to senior citizens they are saying
    out loud what was spoken behind closed doors....Get rid of that
    horrible looking clown.....Not only is he pushing greasy hamburgers and but also a very intense scary disposition...I once looked at Ronald
    Mcdonald with adult eyes and then with my childlike spirit and I
    was wrenching with fear...that utimate white makeup with way too
    much red...and that firehouse redhair...I swear without the costume and just the face he could possibly do some drag-stand up comedy.
    Macdonalds should try to re-invent themselves with the times and
    come up with a character that better suit the masses of kids and adults that love to eat their food....Yes Ronald time to go fishing....

    March 30, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Adam

    Ronald is not the problem here. I problem comes from parents that buy this type of food for there kids on a regular bases. don't blame some company for some thing that comes back to family values. I was rasised with very little fast food and that has kept with me. Plus the happy meal is including food that is better for kids so as long as that is what is selling that is what McDonald's will keep in its stores and try to inprove.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Brian in Cocoa Beach

    Mc Donalds needs to use this mascot from now on!!!!![youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UKLncvGxQ8&w=640&h=360]

    March 30, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Kristin

    Where are these children's parents. Ronald McDonald cannot be blamed for getting kids hooked on fast food. The parents need to be responsible and not get the fast food for their children.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tracy

    Do you realize how rediculous this is? Hello? It's not the clown for Pete's sake. It's parents ALLOWING their children to have McDonalds more often than they should. It's the PARENTS who are taking them in to the place, or through drive thru and getting their food. Not Ronald McDonald. When will people start taking responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming others?

    March 30, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Jenny

    Stupid! Like most people already said blame the parents. I know a lot of kids want McDonalds when they see the sign so does that mean that they need to get a new logo.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Mark from Iowa

    Chilren do not buy their own burgers at fast food joints. At what point do we start to hold parents accountable for what they should be doing? Parents need to start being parents and stop being "yes-men" to their kids. And, yes, I am a father – our kids can vote, but my wife and I have ultimate veto power.

    March 30, 2010 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Drew

    I am not a parent, but I grew up with Ronald as well as many others. McDonalds was a treat for us to go to, not our main source of nutrition and dietary intake. My mom and dad actually fixed healthy foods at home. Stop blaming the icon for obese kids. Parents should be responsible.

    March 30, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Anonymous

    If they really wanted to get kids off fast food they should target the bigger reward for going to fast food restaurants: kids meals with a prize in them. Kids think more about the toy than anything else early in this "addiction" process. This would also hit all fast food restaurants not just McDonalds and would break the true reward system of going to get fast food and also asking for it.

    Another thing ingrained in our society is choice. If indeed the kids meals stay, the food options should not be options. They should be sandwich, fruit, and low fat milk. No fries. No soft drink. That is the sacrifice for the kids meal prize AND teaches (enforces?) healthy eating.

    March 30, 2010 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Peggy

    Ronald McDonald does not buy the hamburgers, fries, shakes for kids – their parents do – what is wrong with these people – do they just have too much time on their hands. Are they going to petition to have Ronald McDondald House renamed as well. That name is synonymous with helping families. Parents say yes or no to their kids wants – not someone dressed up like a clown.

    March 30, 2010 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Stacey

    How ridiculous!! I am SO tired of other people looking out for me and my family's health. Take care of yourself and your own family and leave mine alone!! Why don't these people raise questions about REAL issues, like murder and child abuse.

    March 30, 2010 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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