McDonald’s has decided to discontinue the Step-It Activity trackers introduced in replacement for toys in Happy Meals, in an attempt to promote a healthier lifestyle for kids and parents. However, the decision was taken after it was reported that the fitness trackers caused skin irritation in children.
McDonald’s’ initiative ended almost as soon as it started. It was planned that the Step-It Activity trackers would be in Happy Meals boxes all over the U.S and Canada over four weeks. However, they received a lot of criticism by consumers, who alleged that it was a hypocrite effort of McDonald’s to appeal healthier since the fitness bands attempted to make children exercise more while they were eating McDonald’s high-fat fast foods. As well, some parents said that the battery of the pedometer produced irritation on kids’ skin.
McDonald’s has not made any official statements on the issues through its social media. However, spokeswoman, Terri Hickey, said that they had decided to remove the bands from the market since they have received limited reports on the pedometers producing skin irritation.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and we are fully investigating this issue” said Hickey.
McDonald’s unsuccessful fitness attempt
It is not the first time McDonald’s, alongside other fast food chains, has tried to introduce healthier food options to its menus such as salads, grilled chicken, yogurts and low-calorie drinks. The same thing has been applied to the famous Happy Meals, to amplify the parents’ options. The Happy Meal now offers sliced fruits, fat-free milk. Nevertheless, the attempts of McDonald’s have not been so successful as they would expect, and this has been especially evident after the Step-It Activity trackers were introduced into Happy Meals boxes replacing toys.
The fitness trackers were available in the U.S territory and Canada, in six appealing different colors. They tracked the steps each kid made while using the pedometer as a bracelet. As well, the Step-It Activity trackers lit up while kids were in motion.
However, it was probably because of the battery that skin irritation was caused in children. It was Casey Collyar, a mom from Arkansas, who alleged that her kid’s skin got burned after using the fitness tracker after 8 minutes.
“The toy has a red light in it that is powered by the battery on the back that possibly is the cause of the burn,” wrote Collyar via Facebook.
Her post was shared almost 100,000 times. Although other moms have related that their children didn’t have the reaction to the McDonald’s Happy Meal fitness trackers, the company has chosen to avoid demands and more criticisms by removing the product from the fast-food restaurants.
The Happy Meal fitness tracker Paradox
Though the idea seemed great to promote exercise, to reduce kids’ obesity rates as to give a response to health trends and parents’ demands for more nutritious options. It was a highly criticized initiative since it mixed in the same Happy Meal Box a fitness tracker alongside chicken nuggets, burgers, and fries. This was hard to ignore. A cheeseburger with fries accompanied with milk and a Go-Gurt –or a sliced apple- would be around 530 calories including more than 20 grams of fat. So, kids would use the Step-It Activity tracker to know it would take around two days to burn these calories off. Certainly a lot of steps to do.
Another issue that might rush the removal of the fitness trackers by McDonald’s might be the fact that the kids didn’t use the Step-It Activity trackers as tools to improve their health but as another toy to play with. Apparently, they were also made for the parents not to feel so bad about feeding their kids junk food.
McDonald’s corporate social responsibility
According to Jerry Kim, a management professor at Rutgers Business School, when corporate social responsibility “is perfectly aligned with a company’s strategic interest, then the motivation for that activity is not clear”; since sometimes companies do things that are not meant for the greater good but self-interest. Kim said that McDonald’s fitness trackers case is different and transparent since for decades the worldwide known fast-food chain has included in Happy Meals appealing toys that incentivize kids to crave more fast food, which is translated into more sales for McDonald’s.
Certainly, promoting health and exercise would not help a lot to McDonald’s sales since they give a fitness tool with one hand but hand a high-fat food with the other.
“It may be the case that whatever they do, people are going to find a way to see the cynical side of it,” Kim said. “In this case, it was a little too easy for people to criticize and take the cynical view on it.”
It has been truly difficult for McDonald’s to change the unhealthy image they have without being highly criticized.
Source: The Washington Post