An open letter to McDonald’s Corp. signed by more than 550 health professionals and organizations asks the hamburger chain to stop marketing junk food to kids, and requests that Ronald McDonald be given early retirement.
The letter, addressed to McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner, is scheduled to run as a full page ad in six metropolitan newspapers across the nation on Wednesday, May 25th. It admits that “the contributors to today’s (health) epidemic are manifold and a broad societal response is required. But marketing can no longer be ignored as a significant part of this massive problem.”
McDonald’s quickly issued a statement in response to the letter. “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.”
The force behind the open letter campaign is nonprofit watchdog group Corporate Accountability International, which in the past has led similar efforts targeting tobacco companies and soft drink makers.
The open letter to McDonald’s is slated to run as ads in the Chicago Sun-Times, New York Metro, Boston Metro, San Francisco Examiner, Minneapolis City Pages and Baltimore City Paper. It is signed by groups including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, plus well-known nutritionists and doctors such as Andrew Weil, director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
The letter urges the maker of Big Macs and Happy Meals to cease marketing food high in salt, fat, sugar and calories to kids and to stop promoting with toy giveaways and Ronald McDonald.
You can view the full text of the letter at www.LetterToMcDonalds.org.
The nutrition numbers
For the record, a cheeseburger Happy Meal — a small cheeseburger with small fries and 8 ounces of 1% milk — has 640 calories, 26 grams of fat and 1,040 milligrams of sodium, according to a nutritional menu from the McDonald’s website.
Choosing a healthier option, a 4-piece chicken-nugget meal with apple dippers and low-fat caramel dip and apple juice, comes in at 380 calories.
McDonald’s has endured this type of attack in the past. It comes with the territory when you’re by far the biggest player in the business. We suspect the chain will weather this storm, perhaps add another healthy choice or two to the menu eventually and move on. We doubt that’s Ronald’s job is in any jeopardy. He’s strongly associated with the Ronald McDonald House charities. But McDonald’s may decide he should be seen promoting the apple dippers and other healthy options instead of cheeseburgers. We shall see. It’s a story to watch in the months ahead.