UPDATE, AUGUST 23: McDonald’s issued a full-scale recall of its fitness tracker toys. Customers who received one in a Happy Meal are instructed to return them to any McDonald’s for a free toy and either a yogurt tube or bag of apple slices.
Irony is dead: Your Happy Meal no longer comes with a side of fitness.
Less than a week after announcing it would hand out activity trackers as the Happy Meal “toy” in the U.S. and Canada, McDonald’s is pulling the trinket over concerns that it causes skin irritation.
“We are voluntarily removing the Step It! Activity Band Happy Meal toys in our restaurants in our United States and Canadian markets,” a spokesperson for McDonald’s wrote to HuffPost in a statement. “...We have taken this swift and voluntary step after receiving limited reports of potential skin irritations that may be associated from wearing the band.”
The Step It! Activity Band is a Fitbit-like gadget that counts a wearer’s “steps” based on their general movement. A McDonald’s ad for the toy showed kids cartwheeling, jumping and jogging to rack up “steps,” all while touting a meal that typically includes burgers and fries.
Whether they come from a Happy Meal or not, fitness trackers can be a helpful motivator for some children when used with their parents’ help, Dr. Zooey Goore, a chapter president for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told KQED. Little research has been done so far on kids and fitness trackers, but preliminary studies look promising, Fox News reports.
The Happy Meal move seemed to be yet another attempt by McDonald’s to appear healthier while still selling a lot of highly processed and caloric food. In previous months, the company announced it will transition from serving chickens raised on antibiotics used in humans ― which public health experts applauded as a meaningful start toward a goal of eliminating all antibiotics ― and ditching corn syrup in its buns. Unfortunately, the corn syrup will be replaced by regular sugar, meaning that particular move has virtually no benefit at all.
A McDonald’s Happy Meal is far from the healthiest choice you or your kids can make when dining out, but pairing them with an activity tracker seemed like just about the best thing McDonald’s could do ― aside from serving healthier food or stop marketing it to kids, of course.
This story has been updated with news the fitness trackers have been pulled from Happy Meals.