McDonald’s Still Making News as Childhood Obesity Culprit

Fallen arches

An Associated Press news article from Sao Paulo, Brazil, recently reported that a McDonald’s manager successfully sued the company for making him obese. He worked there for 12 years, and packed on 65 pounds while diligently sampling each day’s fare to make sure that it tasted good. The free lunches granted to employees helped, too. He was awarded more than $17,000, but the ruling has, of course, been appealed by the corporation.

In regard to the overweight restaurant manager, Newser staff writer Nick McMaster remarked,

This might top the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Andrew M. Harris tells us that a legal action aimed at McDonald’s and filed in the United States in 2002 would not be allowed to proceed as a group lawsuit. The plaintiffs’ claims, said Judge Donald Pogue, will need to be investigated individually and extensively. Harris says,

Pogue, a U.S. Court of International Trade judge sitting by special designation in district court, said the consumers hadn’t shown that other people of a similar age suffered the same medical injuries after being exposed to the same marketing and eating the same food.

The corporation, meanwhile, maintains that childhood obesity is a complex societal problem, and not its fault. Harris also mentions another matter, noting that the nonprofit consumer advocacy group The Center for Science in the Public Interest has demanded that McDonald’s stop putting toys in Happy Meals. He gives us a quotation from the organization’s litigation director, Stephen Gardner:

McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children… It’s a creepy and predatory practice…

The old Hollywood saying goes, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” Ronald McDonald must believe this, because his company gets so much negative press. Plenty of websites and print publications specialize in McDonald’s-bashing, and there is no way to ignore the constant barrage of news about the gigantic food corporation. Despite our reluctance to give Ronald any more publicity, Childhood Obesity News finds him impossible to ignore.

We have mentioned McDonald’s in connection with the alluring toys that come with some meals, the questionable ethics of using child actors in advertising directed at children, and the whole issue of the food addiction paradigm. We’ve looked at the odd logic of placing fast-food restaurants in hospitals, the possibly inappropriate sponsorship of the Childhood Obesity Awareness Month by fast-food corporations, and the mystery of why some foods (and alleged foods) have addictive qualities. When any of these topics are discussed, McDonald’s inevitably pops up.

Ronald is a difficult fellow to avoid. His news just keep piling up. His stock price rose when he added smoothies to the menu, which some people think should be called “fat smoothies” because of the high sugar content, and which pass for healthful choices only because they are slightly less harmful than some other choices. The coffee drinks are sugar bombs too, but at least kids don’t drink many of them.

McDonald’s is the granddaddy of all fast-food joints, and Ronald McDonald is the granddaddy of all fast food proponents, but he keeps up with the times, taking full advantage of the Internet to enmesh the kids in his universe. Jill Richardson assesses Ronald’s online efforts at Alternet:

On the McDonald’s site alone, they can connect with their friends, enter contests, download coupons for McDonald’s products, play interactive games and provide McDonald’s with valuable market research by saving their favorite activities in a customized profile and even voting on the name of new products or marketing tools. With mobile applications, kids can take their virtual world with them wherever they go.

Ronald’s cooking has been annoying fastidious parents for more than 50 years now, and apparently his commercials have been irritating people ever since then, too. Let’s look at this one. The adorable multi-ethnic kids (but no chubby ones) hold up and peer into boxes as big as their heads. Looks like they hold a lot of food — way too much for one little child. On the other hand, the boxes are probably not full to the brim. Which, though it could be considered misleading, is probably a good thing.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Judge: McDonald’s must pay obese employee $17.5K,” Associated Press, 10/28/10
Source: “McDonald’s Manager Wins Suit: Job Made Me Obese,” Newser, 10/28/10
Source: “McDonald’s Obesity Case Can’t Proceed as Group Suit,”, 10/27/10
Source: “Behind the Shady World of Marketing Junk Food to Children,”, 03/23/10
Image by iboy_daniel (Doug Wilson), used under its Creative Commons license.

2 Responses

  1. Unfortunately, there is a major disconnect between health advocates, fast food and the consuming public. Sorry to say, the health message is not getting across. There’s only one fact that I need to know and here it is … McDonald’s stock is at an all-time high. People are, in fact, lovin’ it.

    Here’s the information about Mickey Dee’s stock price:

    1. “The health message is not getting across.”

      I don’t think I’m eating something healthful when I have some fries. To be honest, I find it very difficult to believe that McD fans feel that what they’re eating is in any way healthful.

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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.

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