Childhood Obesity and McDonalds

­McDonaldsMy child loves McDonalds, when I return from picking my husband up from work, and if I have not had time to cook, no matter what options I give my first grader, her first choice is always Mackey­Donals.

She loves McDonalds, and due to having a 6 person family, if you include my husbands family, McDonalds loves me back, considering I have to drive past 3 of them on my drive home every day.

McDonalds has gotten into trouble in recent years, not only due to its menu, the pictures of how it makes its McNuggets, its McRib and even what those containers are made of, but once thing they have always made sure they have pushed with every ad campain, to ensure that my daughter and future generations always will pick McDonalds over the seeminly endless number of fast food choices that seem to spring up all over town, the thing that has kept McDonalds a strong number one fast food business dispite the onslaught of Wendys and the decline of Burger King.

That Clown.Ronald McDonald

Everything McDonalds does is centered on making sure children love that clown, that children love that smiling face. Ronald not only gives them great food, ice cream, sugary fries, in some markets a playground, unlimited soda, but also Toys, and I don’t mean little books like Chick­Fil­-A, I mean Barbies, Hot Wheels, I mean GOOD toys, you name a Disney movie, and McDonalds has a dozen toys for it. The concept was thought up by a franchisee in Guatemala, then redesigned by a marketing firm in Chicago,  and test marketed in Kansas City in October 1977, then put out to the rest of the country two years later, the first movie tie­in was for Star Trek the Motion Picture.

But is the Clown and his “Happy Meal” a good thing for my child? Is it ethical for McDonalds to push for my child to want that on a daily basis? Is it Ethical for McDonalds to do this to me and mothers like me?

The ethical problems that face McDonalds are two main ones: The way they target children try and push Happy Meals. and the opinion that they are a prime contributor to childhood obesity, due to kids wanting fast food over any other meal options.

The facts are these, McDonalds is one of the biggest toy distributors of toys on the planet, and Happy Meals consist of 20% of all McDonalds sales. How many is that? in 2010, McDonalds sold 1.3 BILLION Happy Meals, and that doesn’t count the Mighty Meals.

Happy MealsSo does McDonald target kids? The man that headed McDonalds advertisinzg from 1969 to 2001, Roy Bergold, stated in QSR Magazine that “Ray Kroc said that if you had $1 to spend on marketing, spend it on kids” McDonalds and other fast food resturants have taken that advice to heart, according to, the average American Preschooler sees 2.8 fast foot commercials a day. Considering how certain social­economic sections of the country watch far more television than other children, there might be a reason why there are far more McDonalds on North Market than Norris Ferry.

So can we blame McDonalds for targeting kids? From a business perspective, of course not. It worked. Ray Kroc’s insight has made BILLIONS worldwide for McDonalds, put 1.7 million employees to work in over thirty three restaurants in 118 countries. Now keep in mind that children account for 20% directly, and thats not counting what my older children get and what my husband and I purchase when we take her. If you took breakfast McCafe out of the picture I would say that Happy Meals are part of half of all purchases.

Childhood obesity is a major problem in this country, and growing nationaly, Michelle Obama has made it her personal issue during her time in the White House, and per, their studies show an obesity rate of 5.5 from 1976­1980 in children ages 2 to 19, then almost doubling to 10.0 in the decade after the Happy Meal was introduced, and thier latest data in 2008 shows another increase to 16.9. Now it is fair to lay the entire obesity problem at the doorstep of McDonalds? Of course not, but their part in this problem cannot be understated, McDonalds has without a doubt, profited and continues to profit from Childhood Obesity. Ronald McDonald himself has come under fire particularly as the face of the fattening of our children by the fast food industry.In 2012 AdAge published a story comparing Ronald McDonald to Joe Camel. Considering how many people have died from smoking and heart attacks, that comparison might not be too far off.

These facts, of course have not gone unnoticed by some groups, calling upon McDonalds to offer healthier alternatives in the Happy Meals, to stop using Ronald McDonald to influence children. Several cases have been filed in California in recent years, possibly the most famous being the one filed by Monet Parham and The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group.Evil ROnald

Mrs Parham sued McDonalds stating that her children were constantly begging to go to McDonalds and that McDonalds had in effect brainwashed them into wanting Happy Meals and the toys that came with them. The CPSI did not seek damages, but to remove the Toys or offer heathiler options. While the lawsuit was dismissed in April 2012 in San Fransisco Superior Court.

Another judge in California dismissed a class­action lawsuit to prevent McDonalds from placing toys in the Happy Meals at all.

Even with the lawsuit dismissed the CPSI has not given up on trying to force McDonalds to do more in making children’s Meals healthier, and filing suits that McDonalds is not following its promise to offer alternatives to the standard fat­laden meal. In a CSPI study of 44 McDonald’s outlets, French fries were automatically included in Happy Meals 93 percent of the time. Soft drinks were the first choice offered to customers 78 percent of the time.

In recent years, McDonalds has felt the pressure, and done more than they have in past to offer more alternatives, a move that cost them more, as fresh fruits and juices cost more and spoil quicker than most items on the menu, for example a grilled chicken patty has a food cost of 63 cents, but a regular burger costs them only 16 cents. McDonalds has also cut back on showing the face of Ronald McDonald, even not being shown at all on most commercials. Ronald has been used more for the charity arm of the corporation, such as the Ronald McDonald House.

McDonalds ObesityAs for what McDonalds can do more is hard to say, they simply cannot stop making Happy Meals, it is a product that is essential to its bottom line. I do feel that the options they offer are far better than it was when I was a child, but sadly, I feel the odds of my daughter going to Mackey­Donalds and wanting a grilled chicken, yogurt and milk is simply not going to happen.

No matter what Barbie is in the box.

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  1. McDonalds Happy Meal started out so innocently. A hamburger or cheeseburger with a small order of fries and a small soft drink and a toy. A once-in-a-while meal to give Mom a break from cooking. At least that’s the way I saw it, but as the kids got older the Happy Meal was considered to be for ‘babies’ and the regular burgers, fries and sodas began appearing in front of them. Still, it wasn’t a regular thing to stop off at McDonalds on the way home from wherever. Our downfall was the $1 menu.

    Curse you McDonalds for giving us cheap food to enjoy into diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease and higher insurance rates!
    If I knew then what I know now, I would have kept on driving.

    Very good blog.

  2. What ever happened to personal accountability? The push for healtheir fast food and school lunches is a joke.

    Here’s an idea, tell your kid no they can’t have McDonalds. Cook them a home cooked healthy meal. Pack them a lunch. Take away the video game and make them play outside. Stop using TV as a pacifier.

    God forbid parents, you know, be parents now a days. Let’s all be friends. Let’s treat our children as equals and not as children.

    The real crime is the parents who abuse their children by feeding them fast food more than once a week at the absolute most. Even that is pushing it.

  3. I can honestly understand the two job family set these days with all the prices of things. However, parents should not let “convenience” dictate what they feed their kids.

    I can honestly say that the majority of parents I see that frequent McDonalds as well as the other fast food restaurants for lunch and dinner for their families do so because THEY either want the same food or they just don’t want the hassle of cooking.

    Once a month, okay. Four and Five times per week; no way.

    Just my opinion.

  4. Good blog. McNuggets, and the Mighty Wings (when they have them) are the only things I eat from McDonalds, but something about those golden arches drive kids crazy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a kid lose their shit because they got to eat some McDonalds, now, like right now!

    With that said, I have no children but if I did I’d definitely limit their fast food consumption. It’s just not good for kids to be eating that food all the time.

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