McDonald’s faces lawsuit over Happy Meals

Consumer group says toys lure kids to unhealthy foods

A
watchdog group is threatening to sue McDonald’s, claiming Happy Meals toys lure
kids into unhealthy eating habits and break state consumer-protection laws.

“McDonald’s
is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” Stephen
Gardner, litigation director for the Centre for Science in the Public Interest,
said in a news release.

The
organisation said it will sue McDonald’s if the firm does not stop its
toy-related promotions within 30 days. The group claims that the toys are
“unfair and deceptive” marketing that violates laws in Massachusetts, Texas,
New Jersey, California, and the District of Columbia.

McDonald’s
recent ads featured the lovable cartoon ogre Shrek. The Happy Meals in those advertisements
offer Apple Dippers and 1 per cent milk instead of french fries and sugary soft
drinks.

But
that’s not what most kids get, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest claimed.
A study it carried out found that nine out of 10 times, a child or adult who
orders a Happy Meal without specifying Apple Dippers is given french fries.

Children
still get toys even if they order a Happy Meal with a cheeseburger, french
fries, and a Sprite. Such a meal gives a child age 4 to 8 years old half a
day’s calories, two days’ worth of saturated fat, two days’ worth of sugar, and
a large dose of salt.

“Eating
Happy Meals promotes eating habits that are virtually assured to undermine
children’s health,” Mr. Gardner wrote in organisation’s warning letter to
McDonald’s.

Nutrition
aside, the CSPI suggests that McDonald’s marketing to children is “predatory
and wrong” because young children are not “developmentally advanced enough” to
resist the marketing.

“McDonald’s
marketing has the effect of conscripting America’s children into an unpaid
drone army of word-of-mouth marketers, causing them to pester their parents to
bring them to McDonald’s,” Mr. Gardner
wrote in the letter.

McDonald’s
disagreed strongly with that characterization, saying that its meals were
“right-sized for kids” and that it offered healthful choices. Toys,
said spokesman William Whitman, are “just one part of a fun, family experience
at McDonald’s.”