The fast food chain is accused of “refusing to address the dangerous toll that fast food and predatory marketing is taking on kids” and contributing to the rise of obesity and health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Campaign group Corporate Accountability International wrote an open letter signed by 550 health professionals urging the fast food restaurant to retire the character in the interest of health on the eve of the company’s annual shareholder meeting.
It states: “Our community is devoted to caring for sick children and preventing illness through public education. But our efforts cannot compete with the hundreds of millions of dollars you spend each year directly marketing to kids.”
“The rise of health conditions like diabetes and heart disease mirrors the growth of your business – growth driven in large part by children’s marketing. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics deems such marketing ’inherently deceptive to children under 8,’ you continue to use it as a vehicle to grow your enterprise.”
The lobby group also points out that McDonald’s actions inform the rest of industry and that its leadership on reducing marketing to children could affect change across the industry.
The letter was published in US newspapers yesterday and the lobby group is also using Facebook to promote the protest.
McDonald’s has previously come under fire for using toys to promote its children’s Happy Meals.
McDonald’s UK says that Ronald McDonald, who has been the brand’s mascot for 35 years “remains very popular with families” but did not address the accusations.