McDonald’s Corp. has recalled all of its Step-It activity wristband Happy Meal toys after reports that they led to numerous injuries, including blisters and skin irritation, and could cause burns.
The recall involves about 33 million wristbands that were made for distribution in the U.S. and Canada, according to the recall notice from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The notice said McDonald’s received more than 70 reports of incidents — including seven reports of blisters — after people wore the wristbands, some of which have a digital counter and others of which light up as the wearer moves.
The moves comes about a week after the Oak Brook, Ill., fast food giant said it would stop distributing the wristbands in its Happy Meals after receiving “limited reports” of potential skin irritations that “may be associated from wearing the band.”
At that point, the promotion had run for about a week. The wristbands were distributed Aug. 9 through 17. McDonald’s said many of them had not yet been given to customers.
The company said it was working with the CPSC and Canada’s federal public health department, Health Canada, on the recall.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our customers,” company spokeswoman Terri Hickey said in a statement. “We apologize to our customers who were impacted and for the inconvenience this recall has caused.”
Customers should return the wristbands to McDonald’s for a replacement toy as well as a yogurt or a bag of apple slices.
The McDonald’s toys come in two styles: an “activity counter” wristband with a digital screen that comes in orange, blue or green, and a “light-up band” that blinks when a child moves and is red, purple or orange, according to the recall notice.
Even sophisticated fitness trackers have had similar issues.
In 2014, Fitbit recalled its Force wristband activity monitor after some users reported skin irritation, rashes and burns.
Last week, an analyst said before McDonald’s stopped distributing its wristbands that the promotion appeared to be in line with the company’s attempt to change perceptions that its food is unhealthful.
“They’ve added apples in the Happy Meals. They’ve added milk instead of soda,” said Nicole Ferry, a partner and executive director of strategy for branding firm Sullivan. “They’re trying to appeal as a healthier choice for kids, and adults too, but primarily for kids.”
But from a branding perspective, the fitness trackers didn’t necessarily make a lot of sense because children were likely to view the gadgets as toys, rather than a serious message about exercise.
“Because it’s such a temporal promotional toy, it feels a little less of a serious commitment,” Ferry said, describing the promotion as a “misplaced brand message.”
McDonald’s has struggled in its turnaround efforts.
Its second-quarter revenue, reported in July, totaled $6.26 billion, a 4% drop from the same period last year. Net income was $1.09 billion, down from $1.2 billion in the year-earlier quarter.
And though the company marked its fourth consecutive quarter of positive comparable-store sales, the 1.8% increase in the U.S. came in below analysts’ expectations.
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