Health Organizations Want Ronald McDonald to Retire

Ronald McDonald may soon be retiring his trademark red wig and shoes.

The iconic clown is being asked to retire by more than 550 health professionals and organizations, who have also asked McDonald’s to stop marketing junk food to children, according to the Wall Street Journal, in a continued push to market more health-conscious food to kids. The organizations published a letter Wednesday in the form of a full-page advertisement in daily newspapers across the country, including the New York Metro, San Francisco Examiner, Baltimore City Paper and MinneapolisCity Pages. The letter has been signed by the American-Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition, among many others, the WSJ reported.

The letter requests that the fast food chain produce a report that assesses its "health footprint," according to the WSJ.

McDonald's however, is standing by its clown and Happy Meals.

"We are committed to responsible advertising and take our communications to children very seriously," McDonald's said in a statement. "We understand the importance of children's health and nutrition, and are committed to being part of the dialogue and solution. We serve high quality food, and our Happy Meals offer choice and variety in portions just for kids. Parents tell us they appreciate our Happy Meal choices."

Advertisements aimed at kids pushing sugary cereals, snacks and drinks also came under fire last month. New government guidelines that restrict marketing of unhealthy food to children were proposed by federal regulators.

The guidelines, developed by the Federal Trade Commission, Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are designed to encourage more self-regulation in the food industry, and also to support parents' own efforts to enforce a healthier lifestyle among their children, the FTC said. Congress ordered the agencies to begin working on these guidelines in 2009, led by former Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Ks.) and Sen. Tom Harking (D-Iowa).

The guidelines state that advertising and marketing should encourage the kids they are targeting to choose foods that include vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat and poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and beans, according to the FTC. The guidelines should be met over the next five years, the commission said.