McDonald’s = Obese Kids?

Overweight and obesity among children is a growing problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 17% of children and adolescents are obese, as measured by age-adjusted body-mass index (BMI). The rate of childhood obesity has nearly tripled since 1980, which the CDC blames on a number of factors — including greater availability of high-calorie foods and drinks, as well as more advertising of less healthy foods.


Against this backdrop, at their annual meeting last Thursday, McDonald’s Corp shareholders rejected a proposal that would have required the company to issue a report examining the effect of its practices on childhood obesity. Ahead of the meeting, a group of more than 550 health-care professionals had issued a letter calling on the company to stop marketing its food to children by including toys in its Happy Meals and through its use of Ronald McDonald as a promotional figure. The group Corporate Accountability International paid to print full-page ads including the letter in six newspapers across the country last Wednesday.

According to a Reuters article on the shareholder vote, McDonald’s chief executive Jim Skinner praised the outcome, stating that the principle at hand was “the personal and individual right to choose.” The company had recommended that shareholders reject the proposal. McDonald’s also noted that it has added several healthier menu items in recent years, including salads and oatmeal. For Happy Meals, it offers the option of apples with caramel dipping sauce instead of French fries and chicken nuggets instead of a hamburger or cheeseburger. Some critics note that many of these supposedly healthier options are nevertheless high in sugar, fat, or salt.

Perhaps not coincidentally, on Tuesday of this week the price of McDonald’s Corp stock reached a record high, exceeding $83 for the first time.

What do you think — should McDonald’s be required, or at least pressured, to “police” itself for contributing to childhood obesity? Should the company cease all marketing efforts to children, or are critics wrong to view Happy Meal toys as a threat? How much responsibility does McDonald’s bear for childhood obesity, and how much belongs to parents who feed their children unhealthy food? Should a third party — such as the government — get involved, as San Francisco did last year by banning the sale of toys with unhealthy meals? Leave a comment below!

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  • Keith

    I’ve been thinking more about this as America focuses more on obesity.

    At first I blamed McDonalds and such restaurants for getting me as a child to 275 lbs before age 19. I used to eat three cheeseburgers, large frie, large coke, and a 6 piece mcnugget in one setting.

    But, we’re Americans, we have choices. We are not being forced to eat at McDies every day and if I want to go to Mcdonalds once in a while as a treat I shouldn’t be forced to eat a healthier version, if I wanted to eat healthy I’d stay at home. I’m still pained that they switched the apple pies to baked instead of fried. They tasted much better fried.

    Right now I’ve gotten my weight to 183 at age 29. I’m starting to thinking about having a family and I think the responsibility is on the parents to make/help children eat healthy food on a more regular basis.

  • Gina Ambielli

    My children grew up with home cooked dinners with an occassional fast food meal.I WORKED outside the home but planned ahead for nutritous meals,fruit in season with tasty snacks.Meal choices are ‘ADULT” DECISIONS.I do not blame the fast-food establishments,that is their business,but applaud all the new choices given.My grandsons,however,were a different story.They grew up on Burgers,McNuggets,fries-stayed slim.GO FIGURE!!!!

  • louis

    Pointing a finger at McD’s is hypocritical. I would bet that the same self righteous ‘health care professionals’ think nothing of taking their kids to a diner or Friday’s or Chili’s and feeding them cheeseburgers, fries and some high fat dessert. Burgers, fries, fatty pizza and sugar and fat laden desserts are the standard American diet. It’s in all the school lunchrooms. All McD’s has done is provide a consistent product at an attractive price.
    They’re a soft target for the hypocrites who get satisfaction by prescribing for others what they don’t do themselves.
    In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been on a Mediterranean style diet for 30+ years and don’t remember the last time I’ve been to a McD’s.

  • Brandon

    It’s marketing… Every fast food chain has kidsd meals with toys… McDonalds just took it to another level… they now offer milk, juice, and fruit choices to their happy meals… what more do people want? That’s why I get aggravated… They have been forced to stop selling “Super Size”, while the other brands continue to… They have been forced to provide healthy menu choices while only 1 other chain does (and they aren’t forced)… they have been forced to change kids meal options (and no other chain has been forced to). I understand the food is “unhealthy”, but I also understand that it’s wrong to single out 1 chain, and not require the rest to do the same. How about parents buy their kids a nice All White-Meat chicken nugget Happy Meal with Apple Slices and a Milk Chug? How does it get any better for a child than that in the Fast food Kid’s meal market? Try and find 1 fast food chain that offers a healthier kids meal (Other than Subway which to me does not fit in the same category).

  • Richard

    Obese kids are not want a parent want in a family.

  • Richard

    Obese children are not what a parent wants in their family. It would be disturbing and embarrassing.