Sponsorship in children’s hospital by McDonald’s charity condemned

Obesity expert Dr Donal O’Shea asks if Heineken would be allowed sponsor a liver unit

 

An anti-obesity expert has condemned the sponsorship of the parents’ wing of the planned new National Children’s Hospital by Ronald McDonald House, a charitable arm of the fast food chain McDonald’s.

Dr Donal O’Shea, HSE lead for the management of obesity, said it was not the right message to be sending out to have a fast food chain linked to the hospital when childhood obesity is Ireland’s biggest epidemic.

Speaking before he addressed a conference in Trinity College on obesity care, Dr O’Shea expressed “great disappointment with Ronald McDonald House charity sponsoring the 53 roomed parents’ wing of our new children’s hospital.

“If you take a virtual tour of the children’s hospital on the web there’s only one name you’ll see apart from National Children’s Hospital -it’s Ronald McDonald.”

When it was put to him that funding was an issue, he said: “Would you have Heineken sponsor your liver units?”

Dr O’Shea added: “I just wish they would follow the New Zealand lead of saying ‘thanks guys but no thanks’”.

But instead they “have that name appearing loud and proud if anyone goes to have a virtual tour of the National Children’s Hospital over the next three years before it opens”.

‘Subliminal’

The Ronald McDonald House charity offers “an around the world thing to positively link with and positively message” their product. “It’s perfect subliminal positive messaging from their point of view.”

Dr O’Shea added: “We know the drivers of obesity and the patterns of consumption of fast food takeaway that McDonald’s need to grow their business is an unhealthy pattern of consumption.

“They say ‘look, our food isn’t bad’ and in isolation that is correct but the pattern of consumption they have to drive is bad.”

He said “it’s sponsorship and sponsorship is the same as advertising”.

But he welcomed as “potentially positive and constructive” the appointment of a former senior Coca Cola executive to the Teaching Council, the regulator and standards body for teaching in Ireland.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton announced the appointment of Coca Cola’s former Europe, Eurasia and Africa customer relationship director Gerry Leydon to the council this week.

Mr Bruton said “his appointment was made through the Public Appointments Service process, in accordance the Department of Expenditure and Public Reform guidelines on appointments to State boards”.

‘Peddles’

Dr O’Shea said: “I have found some of the most helpful and instructive and informed people, are people who have worked in the food and drinks industry.

“They know exactly how it works and how exactly it promotes and peddles food to children and he could be uniquely positioned to deliver that insight.”

He added: “I have confidence in the council to use him appropriately and positively to address childhood obesity, the biggest epidemic we have at the moment and driven by the industry he’s a part of,

“I am vehemently opposed to how Coca Cola market and promote to under 12s in particular but I don’t see this as part of that. I see this as the kind of table they need to be at so they see the need for urgent continued reformulation and the expertise they have industry would be very good for the Teaching Council.”