Is Ronald McDonald Making American Kids Obese?

Ronald McDonald hasn’t had an easy go of it recently, but McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) chief executive Don Thompson is trying to help the company mascot catch a break. At the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, Thompson defended McDonald’s marketing strategy and contended: “We are not the cause of obesity. Ronald is not a bad guy,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The marketing practices of McDonald’s are under the microscope again, with many critics condemning the way the company advertises to children. Representatives from Corporate Accountability International, a nonprofit corporate watchdog, were present at the meeting on Thursday and accused McDonald’s of contributing to the obesity epidemic with its advertising that targets children, especially minorities.

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Thompson, McDonald’s first African-American chief executive, adamantly refuted the claims.

Corporate Accountability International recently put forward a proposal that would require McDonald’s to assess its nutrition initiatives. The proposal failed in the meeting, with only 6.3 percent of shareholders’ votes. The same organization was responsible for the operation two years ago that campaigned for the retirement of Ronald McDonald, the clown mascot, who Thompson defended on Thursday, saying: “He’s about fun. He’s a clown. I’d urge you all to let your kids have fun, too.”

McDonald Happy MealAnd Ronald is not McDonald’s only problem. The company recently reported its fourth monthly global same-stores sales decline since October. In an attempt to combat these falling sales, the McDonald’s menu has seen several recent changes, including the removal of the Angus burger and the addition of the Quarter Pounders. There has also been significant speculation that the fast food giant is considering streamlining its menu completely, slimming down its 145 options. As the company continues to compete with fierce competitors Burger King (NYSE:BKW) and Wendy’s (NYSE:WEN), it struggles to revive sales success.

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McDonald’s has continued to roll out healthy choices in its menu makeovers. Customers now have the options of apple slices, fat-free milk, and even egg-white breakfast sandwiches. Since the options are available, McDonald’s argues that it is out of its hands and up to the parents to feed the children the way they want. The company doesn’t believe that including Ronald in its marketing campaign has any effect on that.

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