The end of the 'Happy Meal'? Doctors slam McDonald's marketing

Most parents will, at one stage or another, have given in to their child's clamouring for a McDonald's Happy Meal. But concern over childhood obesity in America has caused hundreds of healthcare professionals to write to the fast food giant urging an end to "dangerous and predatory" marketing aimed at kids.

McDonald's Happy Meals
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In an open letter, published in several major US papers yesterday, 550 industry professionals and organisations asked McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner to retire Ronald the clown and to stop tempting children with the promise of toys.

The letter read: "We ask that you heed our concern and retire your marketing promotions for food high in salt, fat, sugar, and calories to children, whatever form they take - from Ronald McDonald to toy giveaways."

While the letter acknowledged that McDonald's were not wholly to blame, it cited junk food as part of the reason for increasing childhood obesity and associated health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

Pressure on fast food restaurants to cut advertising aimed at children has increased in recent years and just a few weeks ago, the US Government announced new guidelines urging companies to do just that.

But McDonald's is standing by its iconic clown, who they insist is a "source for good" and have refused to put Ronald into retirement.

However, with a high-profile campaign organised by US watchdog Corporate Accountability International and pressure from the Obama administration increasing by the day, it's beginning to look like the Happy Meal's days are numbered.

What do you think? Should fast food companies take the blame or does the responsibility lie with parents? Leave a comment below...