Well, it happened: Someone has kidnapped Ronald McDonald. Not a living, breathing clown character, but a waving statue outside one of the restaurant’s Helsinki locations, whose head was covered with a black bag last week. The environmentalist “kidnappers” proceeded to release a video demanding transparency of the company’s product practices, which they claim are unhealthy and unsustainable. But in a more peaceful protest here in our own city last Wednesday, a few folks took part in a nationwide campaign to retire the red-headed figure as a way to cut the fast-food giant’s mass appeal to kids. It may seem like a long-shot — though Happy Meal toys have already disappeared in San Francisco — but the event was timed along with the country’s newly updated dietary guidelines, giving the protesters perhaps a bigger soapbox to stand on.
Last week, the nation’s new dietary guidelines, the seventh edition, took aim at widespread obesity, advising us to cut our salt, fat and sugar consumption. We’re also now officially advised to eat more produce and less meat, and yes, less food in general. And more fish, even pregnant women. (But not necessarily fried, despite the appeal of the Filet-O-Fish.) Simple ideas, but ones we haven’t heard in exactly those straightforward terms before. The target is not only the consumer, but rather the food industry, whose kitchen practices greatly affect the average consumer’s diet — often those impressionable youth who play and pose with those statues of Ronald. The new rules also set better standards for our public institutions, like schools and hospitals. It’s a new pyramid, and maybe the start of a new paradigm.