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. really?

    When will groups like this, who obviously have too much time on their hands and not enough guts to take on an issue that requires more than finger pointing, realize the epidemic is not Ronald McDonald, Chester Cheeto, the Kool Aid Man, or the chihuahua from Taco Bell that are to blame. It is the parents!!!! I watch t.v., I watch commercials, I am exposed tot ons of advertising and so is my 8 year old son who does not eat Happy Meals every night, gargel sugary soft drinks, or eat twinkies for breakfast. He has occasional treats because his parents know that things are ok in moderation. I'm sorry but I've never seen Ronald McDonald choke hold a kid and stuff a mcnugget down his throat.

    March 31, 2010 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Christina

    Even if they get rid of Ronald McDonald, these obese children will still have stupid parents.

    March 31, 2010 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Matt

    "The mascot makes children vulnerable to manipulations to marketing"? -Not if the PARENTS don't buy it for them.

    March 31, 2010 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Matthew

    I agree with those who say that childhood obesity is the parents' fault, not Ronald's.

    These kids have parents - parents who apparently can't say "no" to frequent trips to McDonalds.

    Kids don't have their own cars or money - someone has to take them there. No matter how well McDonald's advertises, the highest victory they can achieve is to make your kids nag you. Proper discipline of children will result in the adults being in charge, not the kids.

    Incidentally, kids who get constant "yes"s from their parents are the most unhappy ones. They often end up in jail.

    March 31, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Ken

    Gee, isn't "Uncle Sam" a "cartoon character" misleading the public ????
    McDonalds is bad for our health, Government is bad for our livelihood . . . . . . . . Corporate Accountability International change your focus.

    March 31, 2010 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Hank Castello

    Kids may like it, parents may love the fact that the playground acts as a temporary baby sitter, but facts are facts – this food is hurting our children. McDonalds understands this but they also know that the food is addicting and profitable.

    Would you people still be supporting McDonalds if they were selling your kids cigarettes? This fast food is just as harmful. Make them change!

    March 31, 2010 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Howsyamoma

    Great, that's good. NEVER MIND, that it is not Ronald that takes the kids to McDonalds, it's the parents!!! Sure don't worry about some of the computer games they are they are playing, featuring death, death, death, or the fact they stay up all night texting or the mindless crap they watch on TV, like Toilet Cleaning with the Stars. Let's ignore that, take them out for bad food then blame the food vendor. DUMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 31, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. linda

    My God will this never stop.........always blaming somebody for your problems. Now Ronald McDonald is responsible for childhood obesity..........I dont think anybody forces parents to take their kids to McDonalds or any place else. Please make it stop........

    March 31, 2010 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Lin

    They make it seem like Ronald McDonald is the anti-Christ! The only people to blame are the lazy parents that can't make a dinner for their families & rely on fast food (or just regular restaurants) to feed their kids, then tell them to go lie on the couch and play video games for about 5 hours before bedtime. Ronald McDonald did not come over to their homes and hold a pistol to their heads & forced them to eat Big Macs (and I really don't see him in their commercials anymore!). When I was younger, McDonald's was a Sunday TREAT, not a constant form of nourishment. We also went outside and PLAYED & used our imaginations. Why don't these groups quit blaming everyone else (and American icons) for these kid's obesity problems. It's not advertising, it's the laziness of the parents & kids, plain and simple.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Baby Girl

    First of all... You've got to be kidding me!!!! It starts at home with eating healthy. Let's take some more innocence and fun from our children. Secondly, I'm an 80's kid and it was after my generation that video games really soured but let's not blame violent, distructive and non active video games to the obesity rate. Kids today are addicted to these games and with society kids today can't run the streets like we did since there are so many murders, pedifiles etc left to roam with the normal society!!! It's not Ronald's fault that our nation is getting fatter. Let's start within each of our households before we take an innocent icon away!!!! What about all the good he's done as an icon. I support you Ronald!!!!

    March 31, 2010 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Sarge

    Seriously people. When was the last time you actually saw Ronald McDonald on the television? It has been quite a long time since I have seem the character. yes, he is plastered on the walls or on display at the franchises. But do you really see any other McDonalds characters anymore, other than on packaging maybe. Such as Mayor McCheese, the Hamburgler etc..
    The last time I actually saw Ronald McDonald on TV was to promote the Ronald McDonald House and what they do to raise awareness and for donations to support their efforts to the sick. Yes, I too grew up on McDonalds as a child. But it was once and a blue moon to actually go there. Thats was of course my parents choice. I turned out just fine, I am not obeise. I also like to indulge in fast food once in a while.
    If this is the goal of this organization to remove a freaking character. They need to really get a life!

    March 31, 2010 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ronald

    Give Corporate Accountability International a break. They have to find some villian to justify their grants from the Federal Government.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Rob

    Mr. Peanut is certainly next.

    Does this mean parents can't stop their kids from doing anything a fictional character urges them to?

    Are kids really sneaking out at night to grab a double cheeseburger or are the parents taking them to McDonalds?

    The world is a strange strange place.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. sailornwhite79

    I agree with everyone here who say's, "It's the parent's responsibility." It is not up to the government or any wacko group (i.e. CAI) what we eat, where we eat, or any of the like. Ronald McDonald has absolutely no impact on who goes to McDonald's and therefore should stay around as long as McDonald's is around. Same for any business icon. We all choose to go where we want because we live in America and we have the freedom and choice to go there. For all those who ask that McDonald's start serving healthier food, the same can be said for ALL restaurants (fast food or not) and ALL GROCERY stores. Why not just ask our government to regulate how much each person can eat per day, adults and children. Would you be happy then? If you don't like it, don't eat it. Plain and simple. It's the beauty about living in America, having the choices and the freedom to do so.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. jenifer

    Retire the Clown! He's creepy looking anyway – all that fried food he's been eating all these years has really dammaged his complextion:)

    March 31, 2010 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. LJ

    This is just ridiculous. Does nobody want to take responsibility for their actions anymore? Parents should be controlling what their kids eat, not some comic figure.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. tas20036

    Hamburgler may be safe from this group, but Homer Simpson beat the snot out of him once.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. michael

    McD and other fast food places are not the main problems. It's HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. It's in everything. It is said that sugary beverages are the problem. I wish I could buy pop (or soda as some call it) that had sugar in it... good luck trying to find it. Some imported pop uses sugar and the difference is amazing. With sugar there is no icky aftertaste. Does cereal really need it? Crackers? HFCS I believe is the chief (but not sole) cause of our obesity epidemic. Let's get rid of that, then see how we're doing. Aside from that, this story is ridiculous. Target Ronald??? I think he's a strange icon anyway, but this group is crazy.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Rachel

    All for getting rid of the clown...but not necessarily for the reasons above. Clowns are evil. Everyone knows this.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mark

    Hey, once in a while I let my kid's get a happy meal, and I mean ONCE in a while. However, they normally eat dinner at home, with us, and that includes lean meat and vegetables, along with fruit with their sandwich at lunch. The reason these kids are obese is because their parents allow them to eat those types of things, regularly. Because the parents don't want to take the time to cook a good healthy meal. It's the fault of the parents, not Rondal McDonald!

    March 31, 2010 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Mickey D

    These are all icons of American society and the Free Enterprise System. How can we spread Socialism without first ridding the country of all symbols of Capitalism?

    March 31, 2010 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. MikeE

    I cannot believe how this group, Corporate Responsibility International, wants to create a "nanny society", restrict "free speach" that is guarenteed in the Constitution and not address the real reason for the epidemic of childhood obesity: the lack of personal and parental responsibility! Let us all be required to eat tofu burgers, have goverment required health insurance, government imposed calorie restriction if we become overweight or obese. Let Ronald McDonald alone!

    March 31, 2010 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Christy

    Shame shame on this watchdog group. How can you even put Joe Camel and Ronald McDonald in the same sentence?

    Ronald McDonald is an icon that provides kids great examples of good citizenship. Our family participated in volunteering time to the Ronal McDonald House. Thirty plus years ago, my daughter understood how her quarter contribution would benefit anothe child's family staying at Ronald's House.

    When is the watchdogging going to stop? Why can't parents (without government involvment) be parents and guide their children's food choices?

    Hang touch MickeyDee! Your customers don't want Ronald going anywhere.

    March 31, 2010 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Todd A

    Are these same clowns who think that Ronald McDonald causes childhood obesity willing to start funding the charities that McDonalds supports? Like Ronald McDonald house?

    March 31, 2010 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. rick

    Didn't McDonald's get rid of these characters long ago? It has been years since I've seen Ronald or any of the other characters in any of their ads.

    March 31, 2010 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Sciggity

    Never once as a kid did i go to Mcdonalds because of a clown. I went there and wanted to go their because their was a a toy in the happy meal. Thats it. You dont see kids running around with Ronald Mcdonald T shirts and lunchboxes. Coincidently you do see them wearing shirts with Fat purple dinosaurs on them. Ronald McDonald has nothing to do with this. This whole activist group should be put in stocks and let society throw rocks at them for their stupidity. I agree with with below poster....."who's next, the gortons fisherman?"

    March 31, 2010 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Wow!

    It sounds like the folks at Corporate Accountability International don’t believe in teaching children self-control. Learning how to exercise good self-control is an essential skill in being a functional adult. These folks have too much time on their hands. Who pays these people?

    March 31, 2010 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. whocares?

    If stupid parents want to raise fat kids that's their choice.

    March 31, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Joe Sylvester

    All this education of these Doctor's and this is how they use it. My kid only want to go to McDonald's for the Play Land, and we have a hard time getting them to eat.

    March 31, 2010 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. BucketofSquirrels

    PARENT is a VERB!

    A cheeseburger, as someone stated above, is a relatively benign food. . . IN MODERATION. It IS indeed up to the parents to control their child's diets and educate about smart choices. Time and money are cop-outs. I cannot believe that someone would actually suggest that it is ok for someone to "not have time" to inform their children about healthy choices. Also home cooked meals are FAR cheaper than fast food, regardless of so called "value" meals.

    btw for adults: the so called "kids" cheeseburger is a proper serving size for you too.

    March 31, 2010 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. hate-sucks

    Sadly it becomes necessary for these folks need to do this, because parents are not doing their jobs. If this is not stopped or at least slowed down, we will ALL carry the cost of the healthcare resulting from this – so it does become our business.

    March 31, 2010 at 13:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. george

    mcdonalds represents millions of dollars in funds that only mcdonalds contributes to sick kids all over the worls diffrent organizations are surving because of mcdonalds,, yes the food can be bad but then again who says to abuse mcdonalds , and have mcdonalds everyday for 40 yrs..yes it can be bad for you...get a life you over exagerrated panel of goons who dont contribute but have the nerve to fuss, and aggrevate a useful company...how dare you!

    March 31, 2010 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Doesn't surprise me!

    While we are at it, let's get rid of Charlie the tuna (Starkist), AFLAC Duck, Speedy Alka-Seltzer, Green Giant, Aunt Jemima, Big Boy (Bob's), Elsie the Cow (Borden), Bud Ice Penguin, The burger king, Duke the dog (Bush's Beans), Buster Brown Dog, California Raisins, Cap'n Crunch, Chef Boyardee, Energizer bunny, Tony the Tiger, M&M Guys, Mr. Clean, Mrs Butterworth, McGruff the Crime Dog, Mr. Peanut, Smokey Bear, and not to forget, Snap-Crackle-Pop. I might of missed of few. These people need to get a life. Cant compare the camel to Ronald. I'm going to file a law suit againt this group because your picking on him because of his RED hair.

    March 31, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Mike Nike

    I will agree with the Joe Camel one. They clearly were using a cartoon like figure to draw children into thinking smoking is cool. I don't agree with killing off Ronald Mcdonald. Its a character that goes along with the playhouses at the restaurants, the houses that help families in need, and other charities. I think they are way off base on this one. Its up to the parents to establish a healthy diet for their children. What is next. Tony the Tiger? The Keebler Elfs? The lucky charms dude?

    March 31, 2010 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Seitler

    We ought to be perhaps spending more time teaching parents to be parents instead of taking personal responsibility away from them.

    March 31, 2010 at 13:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. gina

    Ok people enough already! Did you not eat at mcdonalds as a child or has this country become so damn politically correct that now its a "taboo" to have a big mac large fries & a chocolate shake occasionally?? BULLHOCKIES!! I have that meal above at least 10 times a year & I'm of normal weight & over 40 at that!! Parents need to be responsible for the eating habits of their children NOT government!

    March 31, 2010 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Andrew

    My kids love Ronald McDonald–why take that element of joy from their lives? There has to be some modicum of self determination in one's life to make it worth living. Besides, as a doctor, I have absolutely no fear that McDonald's is threatening my children's health. It's what (and how much and in what combination) we put into our mouths that can harm us, not what is offered to us. Give us a break!

    March 31, 2010 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. DUH!

    So what's next – the Food Channel? They show all these cake making competitions, Iron Chef competitions, eating challenges, etc. Always makes me hungry! Guess I need to blame them for making me fat and petition that they be taken off the air like the cigarette commercials of long ago...

    March 31, 2010 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. alisabashaw

    This is by the far the most ridiculous thing I have heard EVER! These idoits have too much damn time on their hand. Why not focus all that energy on battaling something that actually needs support. Like raising money for cancer, the homeless, drug addicts, pollution etc etc etc. It is the parents responsibilty to make sure their children are eating healthy.

    FYI people they have other options on the menu besides burger and fries. My children have a choice when we go to Micky D's. They can either have soda or fries but not both and which ever they pick the other choice goes to a healthy version...for instance pick fries you get white milk....pick soda you get apple slices with no dip. And we only go to Mcdonalds once a month maybe. It's about the parents being responsible and not just letting your children do what they want. If they had no healthy choices then yeah I'd say something but they do...so lay off of the damn clown and go get a life.

    Sorry bout the rant but I'm just sick of these people not having enough to do.....I'm gonna outlaw the Hooters and Tilted Kilt uniforms because they give impressionable girls the wrong impression of what you have to look like to be considered pretty...oh and playboy....i mean seriously...can I punch one of these people in the face with my old joe camel boxing gloves???? just kidding i don't smoke

    March 31, 2010 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. nnesh

    "Could it not serve the same children without the cross promotion of burgers and fries which are affecting kids' health?"

    Of course they could, but then what would be their ultimate motivation to continue doing good work? Oh right, they should take a cut on their profits to help kids out of the goodness of their hearts.

    Despite their monetary motivations, they do a lot of good. If you don't want your kids eating the food, I highly suggest you don't buy it for them. Works for my kids.

    March 31, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Cindy

    These health advocates need to get a life. There ia absolutely nothing wrong with Ronald McDonald. He's not making kids fat. It the lazy kids themselves who stuff their faces with everything they can and then sit on the couch 24/7 playing computer and video games. And their parents, for letting it happen. People in this country need to start taking responsibility for themselves and quit blaming whoever they can for the peroblems they themselves create.

    March 31, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Allison

    I am so sick of people attacking the media for "influencing" children. be a parent and let your children know what is right and what is wrong; what is good for them and what is bad. I mean seriously, this is what advertisement is...it's a way to bring in customers. I don't know of any 'child' that is able to drive themselves to McDonald's and has their own money to get themselves a Big Mac. If you don't want your kids to have it don't buy it. Plain and simple. If they throw a fit then let them be mad and they will get over it. This is getting ridiculous! It disgusts me the things that people bitch about these days. There are real issues out there that these idiots should be focusing their time and energy towards rather than worrying about whether or not a clown is going to negatively influence their child to want a chicken nugget.

    March 31, 2010 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Shuppmeister

    I am SO SICK of these bleeding-heart control freaks that just LOVE to blame everything on corporate giants! If your damn kid is fat... my guess is that it's YOUR fault and not Ronald McDonald's! YOU'RE the ones that take your kids to McDonald's, and YOU'RE the ones that buy him/her that damn Big Mac/QP w/cheese/ 2 Happy Meals/hot fudge sundae, etc! If you poor excuses for parents would get off your asses, and tell/make your kids get off their fat asses and go outside and PLAY, go out for sports, anything instead of sitting on the couch playing video games... they wouldn't have a weight problem!! I'm just SO sick of this country and all the whiney losers that look to pin the blame for problems on EVERYONE else but themselves, when in reality most of them aren't fit to own a damn dog muchless raise children!!

    March 31, 2010 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Thomas

    These "do-good" organizations that want to run my life need to totally disappear from the planet. It is not any business of Corporate Accountability International to determine anything for me or any other Citizen of the United States. Butt out!

    March 31, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Jennifer

    Adults have children, then we send them to school or put them in front of a TV while we work so we can make money. Then, when they see things they want, we have to constantly tell them "No." This is wrong. I think we should ban all advertising that targets children. Children are innocent victims here – they see things marketed on TV or in print, and then they feel like they need it / want it, whether it's the latest plastic toy that in the end damages our environment, or unhealthy food... the list goes on... It's time we take control for our children and make a safer world for them, where they can live more simple lives as children, and not be prey for adults... who want to make more and more money. Maybe this would help slow down the vicious cycle of making money to buy all these useless, unhealthy, environmentally unfriendly products... or at least it would let children just be children in their early years anyway.

    March 31, 2010 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. John S.

    Just more Big Brother and/or nanny state ideas to rule the masses. I'll worry about my own family, stay out of our lives with that "we know best" campaigns. Geez... where does it all end?????

    March 31, 2010 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jules4414

    Instead of venting on this site, you should send an email directly to this insane group letting them know how utterly stupid you find their mission to retire Ronald.


    March 31, 2010 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Becky

    Come on get real if this is all you to do with your time is to attack a clown then maybe you should start acting like you care about people rather then what a clown stands for. Grow up

    March 31, 2010 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RSG

    By eliminating these cute characters we will be depriving kids of growing up with fond childhood memories of giant corporations.

    March 31, 2010 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Overton12

    Do we really need this? Come on why can parent just take responsibility. After all IS it not the parent who drives them there and provides them with the money to but McDonalds? When is the last time you saw a 5 year old walking a mile with the money he earned to buy McDonalds? Never. I feel that maybe us common sense people should start attacking these parents for being so stupid.

    March 31, 2010 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
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