Today, Corporate Accountability International brought their “Retire Ronald” campaign to the Seacoast, attempting to put the heat on local businessman Peter Napoli, whose firm owns McDonald’s franchises. The initiative is aimed at addressing the role fast food advertising aimed at children plays in rising childhood obesity rates, with the goal of forcing chains like McDonald’s to cease their use of marketing tactics that target kids.
Corporate Accountability International organizer Sriram Madhusoodnan led the group’s presentation, held at the Portsmouth Public Library. “We know that retiring Ronald McDonald and reducing predatory junk food marketing can spare the health of millions of children,” he said, citing the two billion dollars spent annually on advertising by the fast food chain, about 40 percent of which is aimed at minors.
The group’s goal is to motivate McDonald’s owners to plead their case to company executives and create pressure to change their advertising strategy. “Franchise owners like Peter Napoli have a critical role to play in compelling the burger giant to stop the predatory marketing of junk food to our kids,” said Madhusoodnan, “Ronald deserves a break, and so do we!”
Also speaking at the event was nutritionist and health food chef April Powell, who testified that she has seen a marked decline in the health of her young clients over twenty years of practice. “I am here today on behalf of dozens of local health professionals like myself who are calling on franchise owner Peter Napoli…to bring our concerns to the McDonald’s executives in Oak Brook, IL who remain reticent to act,” said Powell.
Local mother Judy Chretien, who attended the event with her 12-year old son, explained the targeting of Napoli, stating, “Peter Napoli lives, works, and interacts with parents and children in this community. He sees and understands the consequences of ad campaigns directed at children in ways McDonald’s executives don’t always.”
After the presentation, the group headed to one of Napoli’s McDonald’s locations in Portsmouth to hand over a petition containing several hundred local signatures. When asked what specific action the group is hoping Napoli will take, Madhusoodnan replied that he hopes Napoli will join with activists to put an end to marketing junk food to kids, saying, “As a local businessman, we hope he will be our voice.”