Friday, May 20, 2011

Quit Picking on Ronald

I read something the other day on Yahoo:

"550 health professionals and organizations have signed a letter to McDonald's Corp. asking the maker of Happy Meals to stop marketing junk food to kids and retire Ronald McDonald."

Not only did this gaggle of nosy nellies send the letter to McDonald's, they also bought ad space in six major metropolitan newspapers across the country, because nothing shows your willingness to engage in a reasonable and fair dialogue better than buying off the national media to stir up legions of simpletons who believe a single clown mascot is personally responsible for every fat kid waddling the elementary school halls of our country.

Since when is McDonald's responsible for the health and wellness of our children? I've always understood McDonald's to be a for-profit hamburger joint. Not only don't I expect a for-profit hamburger joint to help me maintain a balanced and healthy diet, I fully expect it to be there for me when I wish to accomplish exactly the opposite.

I've never ordered a Quarter Pounder With Cheese -- and I've ordered my share -- with anything other than a full realization that it was a less healthy choice than a spring salad. I've never thought of the rehydrated onions and flacid pickles on my burger as a serving of vegetables. I've never eaten a large order of French fries and expected my shorts to fit better the next morning.

But just because McDonald's isn't the bastion of healthy dining some people obviously want it to be does not mean McDonald's is doing anything morally reprehensible.

It makes yummy food.

It sells yummy food.

Millions of people eat the yummy food.

I don't call that irresponsible, sinister, or devious. I call it a solid business model.

And why pick on Ronald? Ronald never did anything bad to anybody, other than maybe creep out the kids who were scared of clowns anyway. Besides, McDonald's already shelved Mayor McCheese, Grimace, Hamburglar, and the Fry Guys. Cut 'em some slack and leave their clown alone. It isn't like he's standing outside the restaurant playing some magic flute that hypnotizes children into buying Happy Meals.

And are the kids really the ones buying the food? I'm pretty sure I haven't see any 5-year-olds breaking out their wallets at the checkout line. I can understand the happy clown drawing a kid's attention to a Happy Meal, but isn't it the responsibility of the parents to teach moderation by occasionally employing that sweet, simple word "no"?

Some quick online research shows the McDonald's hamburger imparts 250 calories and 9 grams of fat. Feel like a cheeseburger instead? Then make that 300 calories and 12 grams of fat.

Compare that to the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich at Panera Bread, one of my other favorite restaurant chains. Mediterranean Veggie. Sounds healthy, right? It has red onions, green leaf lettuce, cucumber, peppadew peppers, fresh tomatoes, and hummus. It also has 600 calories and 13 grams of fat. And that pales in comparison to their Sierra Turkey Sandwich, which carries 920 calories and 49 grams of fat.

Now, I don't want the health Nazis targeting Panera Bread, or any other chain restaurant for that matter. And I certainly don't want to see the passage of any more ridiculous legislation, like the trans fat ban implemented by the Baltimore City Health Department. I was under the impression we lived in a free country. If I want to purchase and eat a spoonful of concentrated trans fat that's been twice-breaded and deep-fried in vegetable shortening, isn't it my right as granted to me by our Founding Fathers to clog my arteries with wanton abandon?

That's why I was thrilled to see McDonald's Corp. flip these busybody socialists the bird yesterday at its shareholders' meeting. The company's declaration that both Ronald and the Happy Meal aren't going anywhere has renewed my faith in the Capitalist system.

I've half a mind to drive down to our local McDonald's right now and order a Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese just to cast my vote of support. And I'd do it, too, if I weren't dieting.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

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