Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fire Ronald McDonald: "He's the deep fried Joe Camel of the 21 century"

Deborah Lapidus from the Corporate Accountability International organization has been getting a lot of media attention by fronting the "Retire Ronald" campaign; a petition aimed at getting those who sign it to show support for banning the popular McDonald's Restaurants characters figurehead who Lapidus has said can be blamed for hooking kids on unhealthy foods.

Does the Ronald McDonald character make me want to eat McDonald’s burgers?
No, but I’m an adult and this story is all about the Ronald McDonald marketing influence on children..  When I was a child did seeing Ronald McDonald make me want to eat at McDonald’s?  I don’t recall ever having a strong connection to seeing Ronald McDonald specifically and eating at McD’s. 
I do remember a few times wanting to get the cheapo trinket like toys that were promoted, and of course to get the toy you had to buy the food, so in that case the marketing worked, but I was intrigued by the toy promotion, not Ronald McDonald.  I think I did have a Ronald McDonald doll and a.. what’s the big purple thing?.. Grimace!  I had to Google it to remember.  
I had some of the rotten Ronnie's paraphernalia but as a child I didn’t eat at McDonald's a lot and never became overweight.  In my teens though, I did like the fast food burger joints and had my fair share of McDonald's foods. Of course in my reformed and now healthy eater present state of mind there is nothing that McDonald’s sells that I would want to buy.
They do sell milk though, and salads.  So not everything there is a low nutrient density fat bomb. I just looked at the McDonald’s nutrition calculator. I didn’t know you could buy apple slices at Che Ronaldo’s, still the apples, milk, and salads are completely outranked and outnumbered by the fat bomb/ calorie bomb burgers, fries, and deserts.

I've always maintained that if McDonald's, or any fast food place started selling healthy food I found appealing I wouldn't be opposed to eating there. Someone let me know when this happens.
We can’t fire Ronald for enticing kids to eat unhealthy foods as Ron sells apples to kids.  Well actually I’ve never seen or heard of an add where Ronald McDonald is promoting apple slices so if this has been done, it was well under the radar.
But enough of the preamble. I don’t like McDonald’s food and if I had kids there is no possibility I would ever take them there.  I know, I know.. I don’t “understand” because I don’t have kids therefore I have never dealt with the pressure to go there blah, blah.. whatever. 
Listen, the food is not that great, sure you can buy apple slices, but don’t kid yourself, the main meal is going to be, most of the time, a high calorie, high fat, high sodium, low nutrient density meal.  That’s a fact, for now anyway.
In my opinion getting rid of the Ronald McDonald character could have an affect on reducing sales at McDonald's, but wouldn't it be better to raise the standards of food sold rather than ban cartoon advertising?
I do understand the concept of using characters that are appealing to kids to promote McDonald’s foods demonstrates an obvious strategy to get kids eating their menu items, and I do agree that advertising specifically at children is manipulative, but there is a bigger picture.  The issue isn’t Ronald.  The issue is the nutritive quality of the foods at McDonald’s compared other healthier choices.
I would rather see a poster comparing a home prepared meal versus a McDonald’s meals for calories, fat, sodium, and total vitamins and minerals.
Promote that stark contrast and you will deliver a more meaningful message.
If you’re going to raise a stink about McDonald’s being implicated in contributing to the obesity of kids, then go after the McDonald’s menu items, not the clown.
Do I have an opinion one way or the other? 
Don’t focus on changing Ronald’s status, focus on making healthy choices something that is inherent in selling food.
If there is enough consumer demand for healthy foods.. if the majority of parents demand healthy foods for their kids.. I think we might see big players like McDonald’s changing their menu items.
I also think large fast food chains should self elect to change their menu items as I don't see any reasonable argument to support eating a meal that has freak-show amounts of fat, sodium, and total calories.  You just can’t make sense of it.  You can argue a person has a right to choose to overeat, or feels compelled to overeat, but you can’t argue that overeating is good, or even acceptable from a health perspective.
Going after Ronald McDonald might seem altruistic and have a David and Goliath appeal, but the battle is with the actual menu items, and the eating choices people make.  If McDonald's sold only health food, would the Corporate Accountability International Organization being going after McDonald's?
I hate to do this, but to remain objective I’m going to build a meal from the McDonald’s Nutrition Calculator and that meal is going to be relatively healthy.  Again, I don’t like McDonald’s but I would be remiss if I did’t show you this.  

For my own standards there is still too much processing and extra conditioners and preservatives that go into the bread and chicken, and the sodium is too high for one meal, but let’s face it, this is a meal you get away with saying isn’t all that bad nutritionally, it is by no means a gold standard or even close, but in all honesty you could do a lot worse.

This one is even better:

I bet most of you didn't know you could do this at rotten Ronnie's.. 370 calories 240mg sodium, 5g fat, 180% of daily Vitamin C, 45% Calcium DV.  That's.  Umm.. disappointingly not too bad.  Here I am trying to make legitimate points that make McD's look bad and I'm purposefully posting some half decent nutritious options at McDonald's.

This is why Ronald McDonald is not like Joe Camel. Joe Camel was used to promote cigarettes, which are harmful, have no safe consumption limit, and no benefit for the human body.
At McDonald’s if you choose, you can get a meal under 500 calories that is not going to contribute to childhood obesity, or anyones obesity.  Not everything McDonald’s sells is bad, which sucks when you’re trying to make an argument against them regarding fat bomb meal combo’s.
But that reality doesn’t detract from my position though..  Here is a different set of menu choices, choices that are reflected in much of McDonald's advertising, and choices that I would think most people associate with a McDonald's meal..

97% of the daily value from fat in one meal.  1340 calories.  Actually I’ll stop there.  The screen shot says it all.

1 comment:

  1. Are the kids buying the meals?'s the parents.