2:33pm

Wed May 18, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

Health Workers Call On McDonald's To Retire Ronald

A bunch of health professionals are ratcheting up the pressure on McDonald's to change the way it markets its wares.

In an open letter to the company's CEO published in newspapers across the country signed by hundreds of doctors, nurses and others linked the company's marketing of unhealthful food to children to the rise in obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

We ask that you heed our concern and retire your marketing promotions for food high in salt, fat, sugar, and calories to children, whatever form they take – from Ronald McDonald to toy giveaways. Our children and health care system will benefit from your leadership on this issue.

The push is the work of Corporate Accountability International, a nonprofit group that has campaigned against the marketing of bottled water, infant formula and Joe Camel. The challenge to McDonald's comes the day before the company's annual meeting. The group sought Ronald McDonald's retirement last year, too.

In response to the open letter, McDonald's said in a statement emailed to Shots:

McDonald's cares about kids. We are committed to responsible advertising and take our communications to children very seriously.

We understand the importance of children's health and nutrition, and are committed to being part of the dialogue and solution.

We serve high quality food, and our Happy Meals offer choice and variety in portions just for kids. Parents tell us they appreciate our Happy Meal choices.

As the face of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Ronald is an ambassador for good and delivers important messages to kids on safety, literacy and balanced, active lifestyles.

At tomorrow's annual meeting McDonald's shareholders will vote on a proposal put forward by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia asking the company to report on what it's doing to address the public's concerns about the health effects of fast food. They are especially interested in how the fare affects kids.

McDonald's board of directors recommends against the nuns' proposal, saying, in part:

[T]he report requested is unnecessary in light of our Company's history in addressing the issues raised by the proposal and in reporting on our activities in an open and transparent way. We acknowledge the importance of the subject of children's health and nutrition. While these are global issues that require actions that go well beyond what our Company or any other provider of prepared foods can take on its own, we are committed to being part of the effort to address the issues underlying the concerns.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.