Echoing White House recommendations that the food industry limit its marketing of some products to children, a corporate watchdog is calling on an American icon to retire its mascot -- -- Ronald McDonald.
A study released in March by Corporate Accountability International, revealed nearly half of the American public would like to see the wig-wearing clown hang up his oversized shoes. The group compares Ronald to "Joe Camel" and the "Marlboro Man" and characterizes his use in advertising as being "predatory."
But speaking to shareholders this week in Chicago, the head of Mickey D's said his answer to those who want Ronald retired is a simple "no." CEO Jim Skinner called Ronald McDonald "a force for good" that serves as an ambassador for the restaurant chain and its Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Clowning aside, America's "growing problem" of childhood obesity is no laughing matter.
Recently, the White House released a plan aimed at slashing America's childhood obesity rate from its current 17 percent to five percent by 2030. And First Lady Michelle Obama has made the issue one of her top priorities. In February, she launched the Let's Move campaign, an ambitious goal to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation.
First Lady Michelle Obama: "We all know the dangers of childhood obesity, and the toll that it takes on our children, our families, and our country. We know the steps that we need to take to reverse the trend. Through "Let's Move," we've already started making some progress. We've gotten wonderful support from all sectors of our country. And now, with this report, we have a very solid road map that we need to make these goals real, to solve this problem within a generation."
Highlights of the Childhood Obesity Task Force report include:
Increasing the breast feeding rate by five percent every two years
Raising fruit and vegetable supplies by 70 percent by 2020
Restricting food advertisements targeting kids and to threaten FCC action if voluntary efforts don't work
Expanding the school lunch program to cover two million additional children, so that 60 percent of all eligible are enrolled
And promoting more exercise.
The White House plan also calls on food companies and restaurants to improve the nutritional quality of their products and to stop marketing junk food to children.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three American children is overweight or obese, and the rate of childhood obesity is higher in parts of the Midwest and Deep South. As a result, one in three kids will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lifetime. The U.S. is spending $150 billion a year to treat obesity-related conditions like heart disease and cancer.
First Lady Michelle Obama: "So if we do our jobs and if we meet the goals we've set, we will reverse a 30-year trend and solve the problem of childhood obesity in America. We just need everyone to do their part -- and it's going to take everyone. No one gets off the hook on this one -- from governments to schools, corporations to nonprofits, all the way down to families sitting around their dinner table. And the one thing that I can promise is that as First Lady I'm going to continue to do everything that I can to focus my energy to keep this issue at the forefront of the discussion in this society so that we ensure that our children can have the healthy lives and the bright futures that they deserve."