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Is The Mascot to Blame!

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While my younger brother was still a toddler, he somehow manged to get a small engine from a model airplane stuck up his nose. Because my mother could not get it out, she took him to the pediatricians office where they were able to safely remove the small part. After the affair was over, my mother returned home and had a long age-appropriate talk with my brother about what not to put up his nose and from then on she was a lot more careful about watching my brother when we visited other people’s homes. In other words, my mom took ownership of the situation.

Fast forward to today and this same incident would likely trigger not only product recalls but also numerous lawsuits. The reason for this is simply because nowadays consumers are looking for someone else to blame.  A good example of the blame game at work in the fast food industry appeared in a recent Huffington Post article.

The article discusses how many brands have retired mascots such as the Colonel from the new KFC Eleven concept, Taco Bell’s chihuahua, and McDonald’s  hamburglar in favor of a healthier more upscale look. One reason for the change is the number of consumers and organizations that believe these characters have led to the increase in childhood obesity. In 2010, Corporate Accountability International called for McDonald’s to stop using its kid-friendly mascot Ronald McDonald to market to children. Although I believe marketing to young children can be unethical, I do not believe the blame for childhood obesity rests on the shoulders of Ronald McDonald or any other mascot.

When I was young, McDonald’s  was a place you went a few times a year not a daily food choice. Today, many of the young children I know drink soda and eat McDonald’s several times a week. Time stressed parents zip through the drive-thru without a thought to the nutrition in the food they offer their children. My daughter was raised with lots of whole grains, organic fruits and vegetables, and home cooked meals. She prefers carbonated water to soda and has eaten sushi since she was two. Children are not born craving McDonald’s and develop more sophisticated palates when we supply them with a variety of foods from the beginning. She occasionally asks to go to McDonald’s but it’s usually for the toy in the Happy Meal not for the food (she does not like their french fries). More often than not, my solution is to go to the drive-thru and ask to purchase just the toy. I doubt she even knows who Ronald McDonald is. So if as parents we are responsible for what our children eat, and we don’t say no to junk food, can we really blame the mascot?

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