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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. jeff

    First it was your smokes. Now it's your burgers. Next up, caffeine. But hey, so long as they leave your cable, Internet and game console alone, you'll just take it America.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. patty

    We need to send a message to corporate america ITS OK TO PROMOTE TO ADULTS TO RAKE UP ALL THE MONEY YOU CAN CAUSE THATS YOUR BOTTOM LINE BUT DO NOT PROMOTE YOUR DISGUSTING FATTENING FOOD TO OUR CHILDREN.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Seth

    Wow, these groups just get more ridiculous by the day. What's next? Target the internet companies, cable companies and video game manufacturers because yours kids spend to much time with them instead of playing outside? I ate at McDonald's a lot as a kid, and I loved the playgrounds! Guess what though, I never became morbidly obese like these kids today because I played outside all day and exercised by playing sports with friends. Nowadays kids stay inside all day and watch TV and play video games. So I guess these liberals should really start going after the TV makers and Video game makers. Not poor Ronald!

    March 30, 2010 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Gyrogearloose

    Ronald McDonald is harmless. If the kids are getting fat, it's the parents who need fixing.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Fobner

    These people have no interest in your health or mine. They're control freaks who get a false sense of self importance by imposing their whims on others and basking in the attention.

    They're impotent failures who act out their fantasies of importance by inflicting themselves on other people. And if they can do that in a way that upsets or angers others, they're even happier.

    If you look at their home lives, they are probably bullied in their homes (or when they were in school), have a history of failed relationships and are socially inept. Add to that a good dose of religious zealots who already have that (much required) sheep mentality and a willingness to believe anything they're told (as long as it's told over and over in increasing volumes) and you have a mob of "do-gooders" ready to march on the weak and ready to fling their ideals at the rest of society "in everyone else's best interest".

    Most of these people would cease to be a problem if we could get corporate america to simply stop putting safety labels on everything.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. FDom

    What CAI is really saying here is that "people are just too stupid to realize that eating at McDonald's or any "restaurant" like it will make your body a mess". Anyone defending the McDonald's of the world deserve whatever wretched health issues come their way. I say eat up and clean your plate, or paper wrapper. All you're doing is keeping the medical industry employed. Think of it as economic stimulus.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. FRANK THOMAS

    WHEN I SEE FAT OBESE KIDS THEY ARE USUALLY ACCOMPANIED BY FAT OBESE PARENTS, NOT ONLY ARE THEY ALL EATING AT MCDONALD,S ,THEIR DIET AT HOME IS NOT GOOD EITHER,TAKING AWAY A CLOWN IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE ANYTHING, EDUCATION STRESSING HEALTHY FOODS AT AN EARLY AGE IS A GOOD BEGINNING.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Gyrogearloose

    Ronald McDonald is harmless. If kids are getting fat, it's the parents who need fixing.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Robin Bray

    I'll get rid of Ronald if we also get rid of Uncle Sam and stop signing up our youth for war. Personally as a kid I just liked the fries not the clown.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. DallasMarine

    I support the Clown. Don't give in McDonald's.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. jam

    First of all, it is Gorton's not Gordon's. Secondly, Ronald should have been pulled years ago. Then they can pull the King from Burger King because they just don't get creepier than that.

    The Reality is groups would not have to come up with these ideas if parents were behaving, well, like parents. I think parents should look of the definition of the word and try being more like the definition. Sadly, it won't happen and kids will continue to be in charge of there parents long before they turn 10.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Just an idiot

    They are right – take away the clown and all of our problems will be solved!!!! It is so great to have our government take care of us because we are all mindless idiots.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Voodoo

    Stupid, stupid people. More socialism. God forbid people actually make their own decisions.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. steve

    It's always someone else's fault, the parents don't have any responsibility for anything, it is the same thing in schools, all the teachers fault. Great country!

    March 30, 2010 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Russell Hammond, Hollywood

    What...is this the PETA of fast food? Please.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Lisa

    That is ridiculous – I mean, come on. Kids are going to be bombarded with junk wherever they go. It is up to the parents to spend time as a family making dinner together at home, to teach good eating habits.

    But, obviously something is amiss with the rapid rise in obesity. I think the war is not with the red-haired clown, it is with the lack of adjustment on our part to the changing of the world in time- gadgets, video games, fast-paced get things done (let's get quick food).

    At one time, exercise, fruits and veggies were a natural part of life, now they are on the back-burner for when we have "time" to think about them, or feel like incorporating them.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. liberalz iz idiotz

    How about blaming jewelers for [gasp!] showing shiney things to women who just blow their money on unnecessary things like rings and necklaces! Get a life. Clowns and idiots like Tiger Woods endorsing crap do not sell things. I don't know anyone that's ever bought anything just because a celebrity, clown, or camel was using/doing/or wearing something.
    Maybe if you taught your children to know what's good for them so they can make an educated CHOICE (yes it's a choice, Ronald McDonald does not MAKE you eat at his stinkin' restaurant), then maybe you wouldn't waste your time with this other crap.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Slynn

    Oh Please. Why don't they go after the parents of these overweight, lazy unhealthy children instead. start charging them for having fat kids a clown mascot won't matter a bit

    March 30, 2010 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Patinwy

    The self-appointed Food Police rear their ugly heads again. They just don't get it. If parents wouldn't allow their kids to play Playstation the whole day and go get some exercise and maybe go meet other kids, maybe there wouldn't be such a large problem with childhood obesity. Show a little responsibility for your own children instead of spending all your time trying to raise other people's kids when your input is neither wanted or appreciated. In other words, BUTT OUT!

    March 30, 2010 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. DMM

    Ronald McDonald did not turn me on to junk food- my mother did! She was the one driving through the drive through on the way home. Leave Ronald out of this!

    March 30, 2010 at 22:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. defenderforclown

    Again this is absurd. Is everyone forgetting about the great things this iconic character has done for communities over the last thirty years. The Ronald McDonald house charities is one of the most upfront and honest programs out there. It provided families with assistance when their homes were lost, care and comfort to sick children, educational programs, and money for other charitable programs.

    As a parent don't forget you can still slap that burger out of your children's hands, learn to cook and take responsibility for the well being of your children.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Missy

    For everyone that think these groups are just looking for stuff to waste their time and our money on I am so proud of you. It is amazing to me that these groups of people are wanting to get rid of a clown and not teaching their child how to eat healthy! You can eat healthy at any McDonald's for example instead of getting a Hamburger, French fries, and a soda get a Hamburger, side salad, and either a diet drink or unsweet tea. Or just get a salad with grilled meat on it and eat part of it then and save the rest for another meal and either a diet drink, unsweet tea, or water! It is not about the clown its about the parents actually doing their job and teaching their kids how to eat healthy and not leaving it up to someone else. It is time for these parents to actually start parenting. When I get my child a Happy Meal I get the Apple dippers instead of french fries and either have unsweet tea, diet drink, or apple juice. So GROUPS start parenting your kids instead of leaving it up to someone else for a change!

    March 30, 2010 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Greg

    This is foolishness. Even if CAI is successful in this, how will they guarranty that kids get healthy meals AT HOME?

    March 30, 2010 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Shane

    They will have to get rid of the golden arches and the yellow and red colors. I child in a car seat can see those from hundreds of feet away. They use the Arches and the colors to trigger hunger. Very much the same way Taco bell uses purple, Pizza hut uses red, Churches is yellow, Whataburger uses orange and white.. etc.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Martin

    While parents definitely need to take personal responsibility for their kids' food choices, there is a massive amount of junk food advertising directed implicitly at children in North America.

    This sort of advertising has just been banned in the UK, thanks mostly in part to Jamie Oliver's anti junk food activism.

    Kids will instantly tell you who Ronald McDonald is but can't recognize a potato or a cucumber. Kids of kindergarten age will be able to tell you exactly which coporate logo goes with which fast food outlet – they can identify Wendy, Colonel Saunders, Ronald McDonald, and tell you which fast food outlet they go with, but can't identify simple vegetables such as potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, etc.

    Advertising is done DIRECTLY to children on so many different fronts. There is a junk food related toy sponsoring just about every single kids' movie out there these days, soda machines in schools, junk food passed out at kids' lunches starting in kindergarten and elementary school.

    Until kids' diets are fundamentally changed right from pre school age, junk food will reign supreme in the Western world.

    I applaud Jamie Oliver for his efforts to clean up school meals and ban junk food advertising, and any group that has the same aims.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. mgrg

    For everyone that think these groups are just looking for stuff to waste their time and our money on I am so proud of you. It is amazing to me that these groups of people are wanting to get rid of a clown and not teaching their child how to eat healthy! You can eat healthy at any McDonald's for example instead of getting a Hamburger, French fries, and a soda get a Hamburger, side salad, and either a diet drink or unsweet tea. Or just get a salad with grilled meat on it and eat part of it then and save the rest for another meal and either a diet drink, unsweet tea, or water! It is not about the clown its about the parents actually doing their job and teaching their kids how to eat healthy and not leaving it up to someone else. It is time for these parents to actually start parenting. When I get my child a Happy Meal I get the Apple dippers instead of french fries and either have unsweet tea, diet drink, or apple juice. So GROUPS start parenting your kids instead of leaving it up to someone else for a change!

    March 30, 2010 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. William Spendlove

    Corporate America sucks.. but leave Ronald alone, seriously only a scrooge would dare defile the good name of Ronald McDonald. Makes you wonder why they'd go after Ronald but not The King from BK. He's way creepier than Ronald and he doesn't have a charity.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Eric

    Who are these people and how are they funded...what's next Burger King guy or the Wendy's girl..how about Jack...I nor we need these people to tell us how to run our live or to make choices...maybe they should target the pro basketball mascots since they entertain kids and maybe encourage them to eat the fast unhealthy foods at the concession stands...do they realize the number of jobs they will affect or do they care....they need to get a life. McDonalds has the healthies fries and offer many other options for kids and adults...give me a break

    March 30, 2010 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Cory Lush

    First of all, it should be mentioned that the World Health Organization redefined classification for obesity in 2004, thus classifiying millions of formerly overweight individuals as obese virtually overnight. This "obesity epidemic" is simply a gross reconfiguration of data. It is amusing that groups such as this have been douped into a crusade against a clown based on information that is fundamentally unreliable. Even better, they have conviced themselves they are doing humanity a favor. Second, the JoeCamel/Ronald comparison is absurd. Cigs are illegal for minors, hamburgers are not. Last time I checked we had a right to eat whatever we wanted. Therefore, the food industry can market to anyone anyway that it chooses. McRonald wil remain.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Greg

    I seriously don't get the hypocrisy here. Joe Camel is bad but Ronald has no effect? And I'll rewrite an excuse that has been used here "Joe Camel doesn't make kids smoke, their parents do." That just sounds ridiculous.

    Yes, its true, neither icon makes a child do something and as parents we should be regulating what our children are eating, BUT (and this is a big but, pun intended) who here can honestly say they have never given in to a child's temper tantrum just to get them to shut up? If you don't have kids think back to when you were child. Guess what? Temper tantrums do work sometimes.

    Ronald doesn't target kids trying to get their money, he is targeting them so they will cry and throw a fit until you take them there.

    Kill the clown and any other advertising aimed at children.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Nathan H

    Kids are fat because 90% of the products in our grocery stores are made with high fructose corn syrup. If you want to make a difference go after the corn lobbyists instead.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. james

    Leave the clown alone, he just got his blood labs back..his cholesterol is through the arches.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Bernard

    I think this action is long overdue. In an age where corporations can lobby for lower wages and longer work weeks, keeping lower class parents away from their children and crippling their ability to address all the negative influences their children are exposed to, why shouldn't this group try and stop this obvious manipulation of children?... and honestly, the Ronald McDonald House comment was ridiculous. The damage their food products have caused in terms of childhood obesity, diabetes and liver failure far overshadows whatever they've contributed to cancer patients.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. MH

    These people seriously need to go get real jobs and get their noses out of everyone elses business. RM has been around for decades...its not the mascots fault the kids and adults in this country are fat...its our own fault....noone forces any of us to buy this food. They ought to be spending alllllll that money actually helping someone....bunch of busy body know it alls......unneeded and unwanted.

    March 30, 2010 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Rick

    When is the last time anyone actually saw McDonald's, Burger King or Wendy's pushing burgers and fries to kids. If you watch the commercials they only show chicken (McNuggets or similar, admittedly not perfect but not all that bad), apple slices or fruit and milk. They have not showed a burger in kids adds in years.. I think the folks on the left (and I am one) need to give a little credit where credit is due.. I say keep Ronald, add a talking apple and milk bottle to McDonald land and its win win for everyone..

    March 30, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Morgans

    Blaming Ronald McDonald for unhealthy kids is like blaming Wimpy from Popeye for the financial crisis. "I'll pay you Tuesday for a hambuger today."

    March 30, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. xxception

    Just another example of the "nothing is your fault, you were made to do it" idiocy that is running rampant in our country. Be responsible for yourselves and your children and leave mine alone. I'm perfectly capable of instilling the values and yes even eating habits they need to be happy healthy adults.

    March 30, 2010 at 23:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. LovesMcD

    Here is what is so funny .... I gave Corporate Acct. International a comment on their blog and rec'd a message that it would be posted "after approval". I would like to see how many overweight people are working for Corporate Acct International?!?!? I bet you half of them whip through a drive thru every now and then! This group is the biggest J-O-K-E! Wouldn't it be nice if they put some of their time, energy, and resource to a good use! Maybe they could save a P.E. program or 2 from being eliminated due to budget cuts!

    March 30, 2010 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Audrey

    HaHaaHaa! Talk about trying to find someone/something else to blame for your own bad parenting! Besides... most kids I know are creeped out if anything by him.

    March 30, 2010 at 23:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. heidi

    Who are the ones that actually LET their kids eat the fast food? Ronald only advertises what parents are letting their kids eat. If they've never tried it to begin with, they won't know what they're missing...crappy food

    March 30, 2010 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Omar

    The obesity problem in children from this country is not a clown from a fast food chain. Let's face it, our children are out of choices when most of public schools around the country only offers junk food. I have a girl of 18 months, and she's attending a shool allready, the hot meal that they offer there is hamburgers, pizza, corndogs, and very rarely chicken or somenthing else.
    We can handle it now by sending her own meal from home, but i wonder what happens when you have several children, that would be very difficult.
    The system has to change, our children deserve a healthy choice and better nutritional education.

    March 30, 2010 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. jason

    a group of morons ....ran by morons and followed by morons . Lets stick to running out against figures that interest kids in cigaettes and alchol cause whats next a ban againand disruptst santa Claus because it might cause kids to be to greedy and spoiled for gifts or a ban on the easter bunny because some kids are alergic to eggs!!! My kids for one dont go eating Mcd's because Ronald says so and come to think of it he never actually says to come on down to mcd's Hes usually in comercials promoting active play, sports and the md's charitys not chomping down on hambugers with kids sitting around all lazy . Bottom line is parents have the power to monitor what their kids eat and if they stay home for a homecooked nutritious meal or going out to fast food. its disgusting the way the head of this group demonizes the mds' mascot like he's peddling drugs to children when she phrases it as "hooked on fast food" pathetic. We as parents are the ones who have the power to just tell our children no when they ask for fast food too often and fix them nutricious meals. Laslty they want to go to mcd's and hold protest huh well i call for a counter protest against this group and if they come to my mcd's im gonna throw hamburgers at them "FOOD FIGHT" i'd like to smear a big ol quarter pounder right in that ladies face..... but but but sadly and unjustly as it may seem id be the one who whould get hauled off for harassment cause her life would feel threatened by that deadly weapon of a hamburger . I hope they get hauled off for distubing the peace cause thats all they are there to do is antagonize people

    March 30, 2010 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. kathy

    I think the big issue is that we as americans keep finding someone or something to blame for things. People need to be able to make decisions, and this process needs to be taught at home. It's getting rediculous (SP?) Kids can't play tag in some schools because the kid that is "it" will feel left out. We can't play dodgeball because someone might get hurt. We can't put a child in time out at school because they will feel isolated. We can't have the McDonalds clown because kids will get fat. Prettyn soon we will have no life of our own because someone will be deciding what and where we can eat, what movies we can watch, what games we can play, etc.... We will become a society of zombies without a clue. With so many issues that should be addressed, like poverty, child abuse, wars, disasters, and many others, why tell people what to eat, what to do and what to think? Let us take responsibility for ourselves and our children. Don't take away our free choice.

    March 30, 2010 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Mark C

    **** 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 ****

    Wow, you're a complete imbecile. The fat levels in a fast-food burger are ridiculous.

    Furthermore this group never singled out burgers. They said "unhealthy food." Which is true whether you object to fat, sugar, sodium, or just too many calories.

    Learn to read and get a brain. What you're apparently "amused" by is your own stupidity.

    March 31, 2010 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Lance

    If these morality-police want Ronald McDonald to go, then I guess the Ronald McDonald House should shut down too. It must be just as evil.

    Both, or neither.

    March 31, 2010 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Stephanie

    These people are getting ridiculous. when are parents going to finally be held responsible for these things? Ronald McDonald is NOT standing outside of schools handing out free cheeseburgers to obese kids. McDondald's is not forcing people to eat their food, and they don't suggest that you eat their fattiest items on their menus. the parents make the choices of going to fast food places and buying their children the food and let them sit in front of video games all day long. DON'T BLAME MCDONALDS FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY BEING FAT! STOP BEING LAZY, GET OFF YOUR BUTT, WORK OUT AND STOP MAKING THE CHOICE TO EAT THESE FOODS! IT REALLY IS YOUR OWN FAULT!

    March 31, 2010 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. rlh

    My child loved watching the commercials. All commercials and he would want, whether cereal, candy or fast food. It was my decision what they ate. At that time in my life I was active duty, single with a son. My time was not always predictable but I still decided what he ate. Also my son has never been overweight. He was always involved in sports, scouts and he liked hiking. So don't blame Ronald when your kid is overweight take a good look at yourself. Does your child resemble you in size? I've seen many kids just starting kindergarden and the kids are so heavy its unbelivable. Then look at the rest of the family. Those families should be given nutrition classes or how to cook with less fat, and how big is a serving size.

    March 31, 2010 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Barb

    Who died and left these nuts in charge??? What's next the famous book burning (again)???? What the matter with the kids now a days, is the fact that they don't do anything except sit on their duffs and push buttons on the remote ,mommy and daddy buy them anything they want just so they won't bother them or to show that they got money to blow on stupid stuff. As for camel Joe, what did that accomplish ,nothing, kids are still smoking. These people are the grinch that stole Christmas. And if they are not stopped ,no telling what is going to happen. Come on people it's time to put these people in their place and say ENOUGH already!!!

    March 31, 2010 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Keith1952

    Who pays these people? Why is it any of their business? Who are these fascist that work for Corporate Accountability International.

    Why aren't they being investigated by the FBI? Why is the money they collect a tax write off? No matter where these people go they think they are the smartest people in the room and if we all followed their direction the world would be a better place. Arrogant a$$ holes, that's all.

    This is how they operate. They have made a few good hits on corporations for unethical operations. But other than that, they are extortionist. So, when they get low on money they pick a soft target that has deep pockets. They figure out a campaign to demonize the company for something innocent. So, after a little bad press the company wants to negotiate. The company then promises to support "Corporate Accountability International" and make some minor change to a label or advertising.

    So, with shrewd extortion they continue to terrorize corporations because they are smarter than anybody, and they can.

    March 31, 2010 at 00:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Ronald McDonald

    Makes me want a tasty big mac. Maybe some fries too.

    March 31, 2010 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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