So Long, Ronald McDonald!


You’ve had your day — and you’re no longer welcome here!

Three cheers for Corporate Accountability International (CAI) whose “Retire Ronald” campaign is going after this character just like they went after Joe Camel, and, in that instance, had won. CAI’s “Retire Ronald” website declares,

For nearly 50 years no one has been better at hooking kids on unhealthy food, spurring an epidemic of diet-related disease.

Usually, being a pioneer is good, but this persuasive fellow, who has been around since 1963, was a pioneer of child-focused advertising, a.k.a. predatory marketing, which we would just as soon do without. Journalist Megan Bedard recently interviewed CAI national spokesperson Stacey Folsom, who was quoted as saying,

When we talk about Retiring Ronald, we are really speaking about the retirement of a suite of practices that exploit the innate vulnerabilities of children to turn a profit.

One thing they don’t like is how ol’ Ronald sneaks around and shows up in environments where parents are not present to cast a wary eye. Many parents view the clown as a Pied Piper, with no one’s best interests in mind except his own, whose mission is to undermine parental authority and lure their children away. At the same time, Folsom says, the official McDonald’s word for parents is “gatekeepers.” In other words, parents are old fogies who try to keep Ronald away from his young fans.

Nevertheless, CAI and its supporters aim to get rid of all advertising that targets children wherever it is found, including schools, community centers, and pediatric health care centers. They don’t want any celebrities, whether human or cartoon, peddling junk food. They work toward the demise of junk-food games and toy-inclusive meals. Most of all, of course, they would like to see the end of high-sodium, high-calorie, hedonically engineered pseudo-foods. (Like that’s gonna happen.)

Nor are the Corporate Accountability people impressed by the Ronald McDonald Houses or any other deceptive charity pitch whose ultimate goal is to sell more burgers and fries. They say it’s nothing but an underhanded way to “deflect accountability and deceive the public.”

Here’s a really bizarre phenomenon — McDonald’s Pop Tab Collection Program, which is said to support the Ronald McDonald Houses. We looked it up at, an infallible source of inside information on just about everything. Here’s what it says about the pop tabs:

A million pull tabs have a recycle value of about $366 U.S. And that’s before you factor in what it costs to collect, store, and transport them to a recycling center which will pay cash for them. To put this in even clearer perspective, 100 pull tabs have a scrap metal value of about 3½¢.

Most soda cans are 12-ounce, though many hold only eight ounces. Just to be fair and on the conservative side — and because it’s an easy number to work with — let’s call it an average of 10 ounces per can. A million tabs, that’s 10 million ounces, or 78,125 gallons. Somebody had to drink two and a half railroad tankers worth of soda pop to accumulate enough tabs to donate a couple of hundred dollars to medical charity.

Meanwhile, how much illness was caused by those two and a half tankers of sugary beverage? Okay, here’s another math problem. McDonald’s says that recycling these aluminum pull tabs has so far generated $4 million. If two and a half railroad tankers full of pop creates enough tabs to bring in, say $200, how many railroad tankers full of pop had to be drunk to generate that $4 million? Kind of boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

Weigh2Rock Poll Bonus

Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website periodically asks provocative questions in polls, with open comments. Poll #62 posed the question, “Do you think that high pleasure food (junk food) is addicting, like drugs or cigarettes?”

A 17-year-old girl answered:

Although I am not personally addicted to junk food, I have seen more and more teenagers my age who do seem to display signs of being addicted to junk food. As for the whole ‘McDonalds’ issue, I believe that fast-food corporations, while they should be able to make money, are corrupt when they add addictive sweeteners and hook children with gags like ‘Happy Meals’ and a skinny clown (Ronald Mc D, who appears to have never eaten the food in any of the commercials he appears in). While an individual does have some responsibility to control their own diet, greedy CEOs have no right to addict children with sweeteners to make $$$. This is just like how cigarette companies add honey to sweeten the otherwise vulgar, nasty nicotine taste of cigarettes and thus appeal to teenagers — very immoral to profit off.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Ronald McDonald, 1963-20??,” TakePart, 04/19/10
Source: “Keeping Tabs,”, 03/09
Source: “Poll #62,”
Image by fsgm, remixed, used under its Creative Commons license.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources