By JULIE JARGON
Several speakers associated with Corporate Accountability International, a nonprofit corporate watchdog that put forward a proposal calling on McDonald’s to conduct an assessment of its nutrition initiatives, accused the company of contributing to the country’s obesity problem by targeting children, particularly minorities.
McDonald’s CEO defended mascot Ronald McDonald, saying the fast-food chain isn’t the cause of obesity.
Mr. Thompson, McDonald’s first African-American chief executive, said the criticism hits close to home and staunchly defended McDonald’s marketing practices.
“We are not the cause of obesity. Ronald is not a bad guy,” Mr. Thompson said Thursday “He’s about fun. He’s a clown. I’d urge you all to let your kids have fun, too.”
Corporate Accountability International was part of a failed effort two years ago to get McDonald’s to retire the clown mascot. Its latest proposal called for the company to assess whether its efforts to offer more nutritious products are enough to overcome consumers’ health concerns and prevent further sales declines. The proposal failed, garnering just 6.3% of shareholders’ votes.
Mr. Thompson has been trying to revive sales at the fast-food chain, which recently reported its fourth monthly global same-store sales decline since October, when sales at restaurants open at least 13 months fell for the first time in nine years.
McDonald’s has been removing more expensive items from the menu, such as Angus burgers, while adding more products to the Dollar Menu. Mr. Thompson told shareholders on Thursday that the company is seeking to add more healthful items to the menu. The chain has added fat-free milk and apple slices to kids’ meals, recently introduced breakfast sandwiches made with egg whites and, in some markets outside the U.S., is selling skewers of kiwis and pineapples