By including brightly-colored activity trackers in its Happy Meals, McDonald’s had hoped to encourage kids to get more exercise—but the effort has come to an unexpected halt. In a statement sent to Health today, company spokesperson Terri Hickey explained that McDonald’s is removing the gadgets due to “reports of potential skin irritations that might be associated from wearing the wristband.”
The simple Step-it trackers count a child’s steps, and also flash at a rate based on how quickly she’s moving. A fitness toy may not seem like an obvious choice for the chain known for its high-fat menu options. But Michelle McIlmoyle, Canada’s senior marketing manager, said the tracker made perfect sense: “Step-it is in line with McDonald’s general philosophy for Happy Meal toys, which is to make toys that encourage either physical or imagination-based play," she said in an earlier press release, which was quoted by Digital Trends.
The company's decision to pull the Step-its came after a woman wrote on Facebook that her son had a burn on his arm after wearing the tracker. "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," she said in the post, which has racked up more than 127,000 shares since Saturday.
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McDonald’s statement to Health did not mention how many reports of skin irritation it has received, but assured that the problem would be “fully” investigated. “Our restaurants are now offering our youngest guests an alternative Happy Meal toy,” Hickey said.
The Step-it initiative isn’t McDonald’s first attempt to give its offerings a health makeover. Earlier this month, the fast food giant announced it had removed artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets. It also started rolling out new buns that don’t contain high fructose corn syrup. And as USA Today reports, back in 2011 McDonald’s reduced the portion of French fries in Happy Meals by more than 50%, and gave customers a choice between fruit and Go-Gurt yogurt.