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 (1,361 Responses)
  1. rh

    Sure, they should really be fighting the Constitution, isn't there something in there about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness?

    Just because their fat-azz kids can't resist McDonald's, doesn't mean my kid that plays sports 10 hours a week can't have 20 McNuggets.

    Grow up and realize you can't control the whole world.

    PS, RMD scares the crap out of my kids until they're old enough not to care. So maybe they should keep him as a warning what will happen if you eat too much McD food.

    March 31, 2010 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. BGris

    When is the government gonna let parents do their job?

    March 31, 2010 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Gary Gage

    I worked 16 years for McDonalds. want to stop children from wanting to eat there? Get rid of happy meal toys. My children do not like going to KFC because they give cookies/crackers with their children's meals

    March 31, 2010 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ben

    There is just so much ignorance being displayed here. This is exactly why companies like McDonalds succeed. We're not talking about the families that care about health or the parents that monitor their kid's diet. If we all cared about that, McDonalds would have been out of business years ago. It's the kids who grow up in poverty who's parents are either uneducated, working 2 jobs and too poor to afford much else or just too unaware. Those kids deserve better. They just don't understand until it's too late. Groups like these do their part. It's a good cause to push back against companies that put their shareholders interests ahead of the interests of the children. Stop the angry ignorance and use your brains. Stop running to the defense of these corporations. They don't give a damn about you.

    March 31, 2010 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Donald Ross

    Last time I checked the children allegedly :mesmerized" by Ronald McDonald cannot drive themselves to a McDonald's restaurant. Isn't it about time that the parents who do not take the time to provide a daily healthy meal to their children but opt for the easy out to be held accountable. Unless, that is, Ronald is sneaking into their homes and planting Quarterpounders with cheese in the kid's rooms without parental consent................

    March 31, 2010 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Devin

    Wow, these "advocates" are just getting more ridiculous.
    Today its Ronald McDonald, tomorrow its Hanny Manny, because we all know he's not a licensed contractor and thats illegal, or the kids from Little Einsteins cause they promote small children driving vehicles. Go get 'em "ADVOCATES!"

    March 31, 2010 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Meggie

    The Ronald McDonald houses have done more good than most charity organizations could even dream of doing. Leave Ronald alone. My kids had meals at McDonald's sometimes. They were fit and trim, actually thin, as children and they are fit and trim as adults. A couple of meals each month at McDonald's are not going to cause obesity.

    March 31, 2010 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Karen

    I grew up eating at McDonalds every sunday after church. I was not a fat kid. I am not a fat adult. Eating an occasional fast food meal isn't the culprit here, its poor parenting. LAZY parents who don't make an effort to make healthy meals at home, don't say no when a kid begs for something and plopping a kid in front of a movie or video game console instead of taking them to a park or enrolling them in a sport is the ultimate problem.

    April 1, 2010 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. DF

    Get a life. We liked Joe, Ronald, Ducks, whatever. We are capable of making our won decisions and really, just butt out.

    April 1, 2010 at 01:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Troy Camplin

    Once all the real problems in the world are solved, then perhaps we can deal with such nonsense. Of course, most of the problems in the world are caused by people such at this . . . Busybodies of the world . . . Go Home!

    April 1, 2010 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Dan G.

    Are they serious?? If they win this then you can bet the cereal companies are next with the sugar loaded brands such as Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, Smacks etc. Then it will be other brand name companies that they deem dangerous to children, which will eventually leach into the public school systems and what they teach kids then who knows where it would stop.

    When will our society learn that if you want change it starts with parents, not these socialistic ideals that if we remove the items from society problem solved.

    It's called moderation people! Learn it, Love it, Live it!

    April 1, 2010 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Bobcat

    Yea, sure, it's the corporate mascot's fault. Not yours. He's *clearly* the one shoving all those mean calories into your little angel's screaming pie-hole..

    April 1, 2010 at 04:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Eric Vehkalahti

    Why not just pass a law that individuals cannot make decisions without govt or some tribunals approval

    April 1, 2010 at 05:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. TNWildman

    It is really simple. Parents should be able to control the diet that thier children have at home for the most part. A little more excercise might help the obesity problems in this country. Put down the XBOX controller. As far as McDonalds using the clown, FREE SPEECH... liberals go home.

    April 1, 2010 at 05:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. J

    Yes the icon of Ronald Macdonald appeals to children, but really is the kids who line up indoors or drive through and hand over money to get disgusting greasy food, no it's the kids parents, why is it people indirectly attack something for being inapporiate however they never seem to go after the root problem?

    April 1, 2010 at 06:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Katherine

    Classic case of trying to shift blame and responsibility to someone else. NEWSFLASH: IT IS A PARENTS RESPONSIBILITY TO CONTROL WHAT THEIR CHILDREN EAT. If a parent caves in to their child's request to go to McDonald's all the time, that isn't Ronald McDonald's fault, that is the parents fault. The issue is that the parents are too busy, too lazy, or whatever to say no to child and stick to their guns. This is just stupid b/s that is a waste of money and a group looking to blame someone else for the issues of this country. As soon as people start stepping up and taking responsibility for their own choices this country will be much better off. Sad thing is that will never happen. No instead what will happen is the continuous pointing of fingers at someone else. NEWSFLASH: Life is full of choices that YOU make. Those choices have consequences. YOU have to live with that consequence. STOP BLAMING OTHERS AND START TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR ONCE!!!!

    April 1, 2010 at 06:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Barbara

    Are these people serious? Come on people Ronald McDonald and McDonald's are NOT the problem...the problem is the LACK of parenting skills and the LACK of time people have these days. Well, hold on they don't have a LACK of time they just decide to work CRAZY hours or MORE hours so they can afford things like a $300 cell phone, Mercedes, and/or home that is not necessary and way to big for them. But then again who wants to spend time with their families these days anyways...oh wait I do so I choose to cook EVERYDAY, work 40+hrs a week, and go to school fulltime! Hmmm yes I still find time! STOP THE B*tching that Ronald McDonald and whomever else you want to blame is the problem when really it's LACK of parenting skills and COMMON SENSE!

    April 1, 2010 at 07:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Leave_The_Clown_Be

    So one fast food clown is to blame for America's overweight children!?! Parents of these kids get none of the blame!?!
    Puh-lease!!! My kids eat a McD's once a week and neither one is overweight. We work with their pediatrician to make sure their weight stays in the health range. Maybe the money spent on "retiring" the clown should be spent on nutrition classes for parents of these children.

    April 1, 2010 at 07:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RANDY


    April 1, 2010 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Denise

    It's not Ronald McDonald that's the problem it's the parents. Parents need to take responsibility and not passing the buck and the corporate watchdogs need to place the blame where it needs to be placed.

    April 1, 2010 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jturner

    How about this one..... Parents don't take your child to McDonald's and then we wouldn't have an obesity problem. There is no sense in trying to post blame on a marketing idea that is 50 plus years in the making if people are not making smart decisions in their own lives.

    April 1, 2010 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. kate gallagher

    This makes as much sense as 250mil for promoting abstinence as opposed to education. God help us.

    April 1, 2010 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Wil

    Uh huh...as a parent should YOU be deciding what YOUR kid eats?
    Is anybody else getting sick of these fools pointing the finger at everybody BUT themselves for the problems with children.

    The clown didn't make your kid fat, your lazy ass not cooking did.
    The school may have played a part in your kid's inability to read but shouldn't you have turned the TV off & helped little johnny with his homework?
    TV may have too many violent & adult oriented shows but shouldn't you be spending time with the kid & monitor what they watch?


    April 1, 2010 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. MarMcMar

    "Parents should be responsible enough ... " Unfortunately, they are not. Communally we share the responsibility to change the landscape and public discussion to one of good health, exercise and eating.

    That might mean publicly censuring companies that sell and market junk food. Like McDonalds.

    April 1, 2010 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Rick Jones

    There are good choices and there are bad choices, but usually they are our choices. Pretty soon these organizations would be doing all the choosing for us. How is that for accountability?

    April 1, 2010 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. K. Brown

    Last time I checked the PARENTS have actually take the kids to McDonalds or any other fast food place. So why are they blaming the food chain for something that they did to their own kids?! I mean if you never give them the food they don't crave it or want it or need it. I'm so sick of stories like this!

    April 1, 2010 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Leer

    McDonald's is a business and the way they make money is by selling food. It's not their business to make sure the children, or adults for that matter, in America eat right. If we get rid of all the food that's considered a treat for most people, what fun will there be in eating? And once we clear out all these evil, yummy food making places who will people blame for making them fat? I guess then it'll be down to the people who are really responsible...the ones who are putting in their mouths.

    April 1, 2010 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. OMB

    Yea Carl....furthermore, whatever funds this little group should consider how their money is being spent....their next big THING is to protest outside of McDonald's because of a clown? It's seems they like to have retirement parties....let's give good old Accountability International a going away party, have McDonald's cater it and who better to serve than the big RM himself !

    Parents pretty much decide to drive thru, pick up or go in for the food – if they are too weak as parents and give in to their kids, then they will have fat, unhealthy kids – it's lame to blame a mascot for someone smoking, eating, drinking, whatever....it is the parents who need to establish guidelines and this will follow children throughout their life – maybe they should look at a campaignto educate parents on how to say 'NO'

    April 1, 2010 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Noel

    As a child in the early 80's, my commute to school consisted of a riding my bike through a McDonalds parking lot. About 20 of us had this same commute and we were all skinny!!!! We only once in a while we got together to meet at McDonalds after school. I don't know why we didn't stop on a daily basis for fries and a shake. Maybe we had no money. Maybe we understood it was a treat. Maybe our parents would yell at us. But it was a rarity when we stopped!!!! But the clown was always there!!

    April 1, 2010 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. john

    Eating at mcdonalds isn't causing child hood obesity. The internet, video games and lazy parents are. Kids these days aren't going outside and getting the exercise I used to as a child. We'd always be outside or doing something active. Stop blaming a food chain for problems people are having. How about you boycott all disney characters from video games as all they are doing is promoting children to be lazy? pathetic

    April 1, 2010 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. hodagalum

    Well if they really want to do something productive they should target marketing...my kid knew about Happy Meals and the toys she could get WAY before she knew who Ronald McDonald did.

    Of course Ronald comes and does a great bike safety program for kids every spring. Who cares about that?

    If the parents aren't informed enough to not eat McDonald's all the time Ronald isn't going to make any difference. My kid gets a Happy Meal once in a while. I'm not worried about her getting obese because of it – she eats healthy at home and gets plenty of exercise. Having 4 nuggets, apple dippers, and chocolate milk once every 6-8 weeks isn't going to do that much damage!

    April 1, 2010 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Sickofthis

    WOW... I am sick of this. Seriously... take away something thats been a part of this company for soo long. when i was little i loved getting the boxes with ronald mcdonald and all the little characters and cartoons... people need to hunt down crack dealers and leave this stuff alone

    April 1, 2010 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. guest_224

    Don't they know any respectable child now adays is afraid of clowns? With all the attention to pedophiles and what not, how could kids NOT be afraid? When was the last time you've even seen an ad with Ronald in it?

    April 1, 2010 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Freedom

    Nazi's. People can't smoke in private clubs (without a vote) – government mandated (Joe Camel caused cancer in second hand smoke?? Wow I didn't know a Camel could do that. Ban fast food – fat slobs need the government to tell them it's not good for you, ban perfume and cologne in public (causes asthma and allergy reactions to the public), maybe we can finally censor television, radio, e-mail, internet. Let's have a book burning party shall we???

    April 1, 2010 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Paul

    Yes Ronnie is a creep. Almost looks like a newscaster with all that make-up.

    There’s an interesting post over at the Health Journal Club that makes the case that people should just not eat anything that wasn’t a food 100 years ago. Gets rid of the aspartame, bleached GM flour, high fructose corn syrup garbage they try to pass off as food these days. If interested you can read on it here,

    April 1, 2010 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Denise McBain-Burgos

    Thia is ridiculous! to ritire "Ronald McDonald" because of what should be parental responsiblity, when I use to take my children there. he was never there. It is up to the "parent" to supervise there "children" on how much McDonald's they eat and should'nt be an every day meal, some parent's now a days are lazy to cook a well balanced meal, how quick to blame someone else for there wrong doings. It's nit the clowns fault it's the parent, if you have a problem with McDonald's then don't take your children there instead cook them a healthier meal your children will thank you later.

    April 1, 2010 at 12:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. CAROL

    One more thing some one or some group is trying to control. I raised 3 kids and Mc Donalds or any Fast Food was a night out as a family when the kids were little every now and then. I have 3 kids that have grown to be healthy adults who i believe learned how to make choices by experience while they were going up. Ronald Mc Donald had no say so in how they were taught those choices. Come on give it up it's advertising at it's best "TEACH YOUR KIDS TO MAKE CHOICES"! Thank you Ronald and McDonalds for all that you do to help families through some trying illnesses.

    April 1, 2010 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. David l

    Are u serious the clown is not to blame.... ITs the PARENTS who should get the blame the parents are the one whos driving to Mcdonalds to buy the food for there kids. And if they say that "My Kid was crying so i just took them" well there fault again they need to step up as a parent and take charge and draw the line and be a parent and say NO.. So if anyones to balme its the PARENTs.

    April 1, 2010 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Terp1985

    McDonald's is worth $32 billion dollars. It's parents that need help. So parents, good luck!!

    Parents have a lot of challenges, and it doesn't help that Ronald McDonald, mascot for a hamburger store, goes into schools to teach children physical fitness. Or "McSpelling." We need to stand up for the little guy, instead of backing the must successful food corporation in human history.

    April 1, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. sheri

    Our local McDonald's does a lot for the community. They raise thousands of dollars for school programs and sponsor many atheletic teams. It's a busy time for parents and kids. You can still enjoy the fast food giant while eating healthy. Skip the fries and take the apple dippers and milk. I love the grilled chicken salads without dressing. They also have a go active initiative. Let's not forget the Ronald McDonald House! Is this another CAVE group? Citizens against virtually everything. Get a clue!

    April 1, 2010 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. jordan

    Parents need to take resposibility for their kid's obesity. Are they so weak that they can't stand up to a 5 year old kid that wants a McDouble. Say no. They're getting rid of a mascot instead of saying no. They just can't stand up to their kids.

    April 1, 2010 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Ben

    I'm amazed at how people feel compelled to RUN to the defense of these poison paddlers. The point isn't that parent's make the choice or not. Many kids pick up fast food on their way home from school without their parent's knowledge. None of this is the point. The point is, What is it in our psychology that makes us want to defend this corporation? They serve up poison. That's it. That's the fundamental problem. I just want to know what it is that makes you all so angry at people who want to reduce their influence. What is it? Are you all stock holders? Do you think if we get rid of Ronald that our way of life will come to an end? Will we be creeping closer to communism? WHAT IS IT?
    Tobacco's reach has been greatly reduced over recent years and there are fewer teenagers smoking today than 20 years ago thanks to the good work and influence of organizations like these. Why not do the same with fast food? OR, how about, we leave Ronald alone, bring back Joe Camel and get kids smoking again? Will that make you feel better? RJ Reynolds would love that... more profits for them.
    STOP BLAMING THE PARENTS! It may be their FAULT and their RESPONSIBILITY but they feed their kids MCDonalds because they are either ignorant, uneducated or just poor. They are also overworked, overwhelmed and frustrated. Give them better affordable choices and they WILL do the right thing.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. kodak

    Its a chain reaction. Your parents never ate at McD but you ate some times. So you never objected your kids eating too many times there because you are not aware its unhealthy. Your kids will probably never think about saying NO to their kids. Parents need to be educated about healthy choices. Also main culprit is over eating. We just dont know when to stop. once the kid is little heavy, he is automatically lazy... pattern starts again.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply

    It is to easy point at someone else and say they are to blame. But who is at blame? Who would take the blame? It is not for us to rule on others. We do not live in their shoes. A lot of you should find better things worry about. like ah is your life perfect?

    April 4, 2010 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Rachel

    Regardless of whether it's ultimately parents' job to stop their kids from eating harmful food, they aren't doing a good job! They're still plopping them in front of the television to drift off into a world that makes these dangerous foods seamlessly blend into the rest of their fantasy world. Obviously this group is only retiring Ronald McDonald in an effort to draw attention to the unhealthy food that's bringing down our nations' life expectancy. It's way beyond the creepy icon campaign. Unfortunately there's so much resistance out there from parents because that means they'd have to question what they themselves eat. People this country are endlessly defensive about obesity, guess why? Most people are obese. We're constantly defending personal choice at the expense of the admitting that there are some obvious environmental factors that make it hard for us as a nation to stay healthy. What's wrong with exposing those factors? Good job corporate accountability.

    April 4, 2010 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. DaveUSSR

    I find it funny that Americans are up in arms over a stupid clown. Love him or hate him, it should not matter if he stays or goes! Who cares??? IT IS A STUPID CLOWN PEOPLE!!! Half of the so-called parents on this site let their kids eat at a trash place such as McDonalds. No America didnt have an obesity problem 50 years ago..back then they problly had moms and dads who cared about their kids health. And giving parents more choises wont make them do the right thing..the parents will do the easy thing!

    April 7, 2010 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jayme

    Parents do need to take responsibility for their children and what they eat. Don't get your child the fries...get them the apple dippers....get them a salad...don't take them there at all!! It's your choice what your children eat growing up. Don't blame some figure for childhood obesity when we should all be looking at the parents. Some of these parents are those that go out and buy the Large/SuperSized Value Meals allowing them to gain weight and then allowing their children to see that and allow them to eat the same way...then want to turn around and blame society and the icons in society.....take a look in the mirror people!!! I have a four year old and I let him splurg and get happy meals from time to time but not often....

    April 8, 2010 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. girl

    I eat at McDonald's and other fast food places maybe twice a year. I'm am only a fifteen year old freshman. Never once have i said, "Mom, take me to get fast food. I want to see the clown." I can't seem to figure out how I know that fast food is unhealthy, but the billions of parents who buy it for their kids don't understand that. It doesn't make any sense. Instead of trying to get rid of Ronald, get rid of parents. Of course I don't actually want people to stop parenting their kids, but if they are going to fill their bodies with garbage, they might as well let them feed themselves. Ronald isn't making people fat. Parents are making kids fat and teaching them bad eating habits that will be carried on to their children and their children after that!

    April 21, 2010 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. janice dulemba

    How about we also eliminate the Little Ceasar's Pizza Guy, The Panda Express Panda, Jack In The Box guy, and even Col. Sanders (he's a bad example for old people). And then we should only allow non-character symbols for fast food, such as the White "Castle", or the "Dominoes" Pizza, or the Taco "Bell". Oh, also, we really should retire the Pillsbury Dough Boy. He's too cute and represents white flour, that you bake goddies with, Oh horrors! someone's child might eat a cookie made with white flour! Get over yourselves, and just don't eat too much of that fast food slop.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. janice dulemba

    even 2 yr olds can be taught the difference between healthy food and junk food, and they can learn about nutrition. They are also smart enough by 3 or 4 yrs old to know that the "clowns" and other food icons are a ploy to get people to buy the product. Though they did enjoy McDonalds occasionally when they were kids, my children knew when a product was being hyped to kids. Teach ur kids to recognize these things, it's not hard to teach/model it. They aren't that dumb, and neither are most parents. We don't need to be dictated to by these food fanatics.

    May 22, 2010 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
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