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Are the toys included with McDonald's fat-ladened Happy Meals illegal under consumer protection laws? A class action lawsuit claims so.  (Source: Strange Cosmos)

The issue is made more complex by the fact that govenrment farm subsidies are helping keep junk food artificially cheap, and those subsidies are unlikely to go away anytime soon. Thus the government is already intervening to promote cheap junk food.  (Source: ChattahBox)
"Happy Meals" not so happy for children's health, say plaintiffs

America's obesity epidemic is more severe than that of any other large industrialized nation.  In America today, over 30 percent of adults and 15 percent of children are obese.  More so than any other medical issue, obesity is crippling the U.S. economy and health care system.

On Wednesday, a landmark lawsuit was filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest accusing McDonald's, America's largest fast food chain, of luring children into unhealthy eating with toys in "Happy Meals".

Monet Parham, a mother of two in Sacramento, was one of the sponsoring plaintiffs in the case and comments, "I object to the fact that McDonald's is getting into my kids' heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat."

Remember Joe Camel?

The case is similar in some regards to the class action lawsuits filed against Camel Cigarettes over its use of the "Joe Camel" cartoon character.  While eating junk food isn't illegal for children like smoking cigarettes is, many physicians say the risks associated with obesity are as bad as smoking cigarettes or worse.  It should be noted that Camel Cigarettes was forced to discontinue its iconic character and settle its lawsuits out of court for a tidy sum.

Could the Happy Meal be next?

Lawyers for the CSPI say that McDonald's is both harming children by luring children with the toys and harming its competitors which no longer offer similar prizes with their kids meals.  States Steve Gardner, CSPI litigation director, "Every time McDonald's markets a Happy Meal directly to a young child, it exploits a child's developmental vulnerability and violates several states' consumer protection laws, including the California Unfair Competition Law."

The group was also critical of McDonald's claims that it had made its Happy Meals "healthier" by adding Apple Dippers or low-fat milk as options.  They point out that fries and pop are still the most commonly served options for the Happy Meal.

CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson states, "McDonald's congratulates itself for meals that are hypothetically possible, though it knows very well that it's mostly selling burgers or chicken nuggets, fries, and sodas to very young children."

McDonald's spokesperson Bridget Coffing refused to directly comment on the lawsuit, but defended the happy meals, stating, "We are proud of our Happy Meals and intend to vigorously defend our brand, our reputation and our food.  We are confident that parents understand and appreciate that Happy Meals are a fun treat, with quality, right-sized food choices for their children that can fit into a balanced diet."

What the Suit Means to American's Health, The Fast Food Business

The idea of government courts policing American's eating habits and replacing the role of proper parenting is controversial.  And its important to note that government intervention is partly responsible for the 
success of fast food, as farm subsidies have reduced the cost of beef and corn to much lower levels than Europe and Asia.

For McDonald's, the suit couldn't have come at a much worse time.  The company was just hit by a massive data loss, in which it may have lost as many as 13 million customers' names and email addresses.  And over the last couple years the company's image has been damaged by the nonfiction best-seller/documentary 
Supersize Me.

The case is significant for other fast food companies, as well.  Depending on its outcome, other competitors, like Taco Bell, which does often offer toys with kids meals, may have to eliminate them as well.  And if the practice is condoned by the court, competitors who aren't offering toys may feel compelled to keep up.

In other words, this super-size case may ultimately be the prelude to the U.S. government either practicing a hands-off policy as Americans' waists swell; or opting to try to force consumers to healthier options, via either court rulings or legislation.

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This issue is....
By LordSojar on 12/16/2010 3:38:15 PM , Rating: 5
A). Convoluted
B). Getting really old, really fast
C). Retarded
D). All of the above.

The correct answer is D.

This is a twisted mess, because on one side of the equation, American obesity is epidemic. Add to it that children love toys and scream and whine about not getting that new toy they saw on the McDonald's commercial until their parents can't take it anymore, and cave in, and you have a pretty huge mess on your hands.

On the flip side, this is a capitalist society, and if parents don't like it, they can choose not to go to McDonalds. The toys are also sold separately, so getting a toy without getting the fattening food is a very viable (and recommended option).

This can really be boiled down to parents either not being responsible or parents just being complete idiots. McDonalds should advertise the fact that you can buy the toys separately more aggressively.

Parents need to take responsibility for the things they feed their children, and parents and schools need to stress the idea of eating healthy (and delicious) foods over the crap they call food at fast food places.

The other fundamental change that needs to happen: American families need to stay the hell away from fast food in general. I see so few mothers that cook dinner anymore (or fathers!)... Why is this? The sense of family is so degraded in America, that you can't even really get the family to sit down for a homecooked, wholesome meal anymore.

And no... buying a frozen meal and heating it up in the microwave or oven isn't home cooked folks... making meals from whole food ingredients from the butcher and produce sections of your grocery is what I mean. That's the other side of this apparently 3 sided coin... mom's and dad's are too lazy or busy to cook a real meal anymore.

Oh, and let me finish by pointing out that many families actually can't afford the ingredients required to make a good, wholesome, home cooked meal. The ingredients that are better for you, the unprocessed, raw, wholesome ingredients are typically much more expensive than their processed counterparts. So... families that don't have a large disposable income buy what they can afford, even if said food is far less nutritional and nourishing than the food that is more expensive, literally because they can't afford it. If we are going to subsidize foods, then we should subsidize foods that are actually HEALTHY.

RE: This issue is....
By Funksultan on 12/16/10, Rating: 0
RE: This issue is....
By Ghost42 on 12/16/2010 4:09:42 PM , Rating: 1
What? Accurate facts, and no sensationalism? Ha! Yeah right.. It's a Jason Mick article.

RE: This issue is....
By Nutzo on 12/16/2010 4:29:10 PM , Rating: 4
Oh, and let me finish by pointing out that many families actually can't afford the ingredients required to make a good, wholesome, home cooked meal.

That's nonsense. You don't need to go to the local upscale market to buy overpriced fancy organic ingredients to make a wholesome meal.
Rice and pasta can be bought in bulk very cheaply. Old standbys like spaghetti, or a simple stir-fry of chicken & vegetables over rice or noodles.

I can usually feed my family of 3 with a home cooked meal for less than the cost of a single fast food combo meal. Of course it takes planning, hard work and shopping for what’s on sale, and I’m sure that’s not what the people in the lawsuit want to do.

If they win this suit, I’m sure they will go out and celebrate at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

I wonder if I can sue the maker of M&M's, since I eat too many due to them temping me with the "green" charactor.

RE: This issue is....
By Flunk on 12/16/2010 5:06:43 PM , Rating: 2
I second that, home cooking is much less expensive and if you buy creatively you can eat for days on the price of one McDonalds meal.

RE: This issue is....
By Skywalker123 on 12/16/2010 7:42:09 PM , Rating: 3
When did noodles become a wholesome meal?

RE: This issue is....
By Solandri on 12/16/2010 10:46:33 PM , Rating: 2
They're a helluva lot more wholesome than a burger, fries, nuggets, and a soft drink.

RE: This issue is....
By LordSojar on 12/17/2010 6:20:00 PM , Rating: 2
That's nonsense. You don't need to go to the local upscale market to buy overpriced fancy organic ingredients to make a wholesome meal.

Did I mention organic food? Did I mention an upscale market? No and no.

Wholesome != organic

Wholesome = not processed or precooked (which typically means fried or baked with heavy amounts of oil and breading of some kind)

Whole foods are expensive, because they are the foods that have the least subsidies, which is a big issue here in the US. We subsidize all the wrong foods.

RE: This issue is....
By tmouse on 12/20/2010 8:20:16 AM , Rating: 2
This has VERY little to do with subsidies. Corn and wheat are the MOST heavily subsidized foods in the US and they are not in and of themselves bad or evil. As for processed vs unprocessed, mostly you are correct, however I have seen MANY families whose “home cooked meals” are FAR more loaded with salt and fat and portion control can be way out of line. The problem with most (but not all) frozen meals is they contain a lot of sugar and sodium salts as well as being over cooked (which destroys the nutritional value, however I have also seen many home cooks who over cook also) purely for legal protections. There is very little wrong with frozen vegetables. For most families they do offer value as well as nutrition (price is just as important). Canned is loaded with salt and fresh is a better but only in local seasons, after processing and transport many imported vegetables can actually be less nutritional than frozen just from natural degradation.

RE: This issue is....
By TSS on 12/16/2010 7:56:08 PM , Rating: 2
It's funny that with every arguement i read about this issue, none of them are "just stop fuckin eating".

Just stop eating. You're stomach says it's had it's fill, there's no need to still cram that hamburger in there. Still got half your plate full of food? Throw it away and order less next time, appearantly you don't need as much. Still eating just because it feels so good? Then you're a junkie who needs to stop stuffing his face and get some help.

It's impossible there's an epidemic of people who have an unquenshable thirst for food. Just learn some god damn self control.

On the subject of the children: There's no reason your child needs a large shake, a large fries and a big mac. Your kids do not know what they want. First you listen to what they want, then you tell them what they can have.

Oh and if it does go bad, if at any time you think: "xxx has made my kids fat", just correct that to " i let xxx make my kids fat".

Obesity isn't an epidemic. The neglecting/dodging of responsibilty, now that's an epidemic of epic proportions.

RE: This issue is....
By Rott3nHIppi3 on 12/20/2010 2:49:56 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah.. pretty much proven too. There's been lots of studies that simply imply "stop eating" when your stomach is full. It's all about calorie count.. and not what the food is actually made of. But the nanny state won't have that and argue that MikeyD's made their child fat... not the Golden Corrale all-you-can-cram-down-your-throat for $10 buffett followed up by 6+ hours on the PS3 and another 2+ hours on facebook.

Michelle Obama is pushing to eat more salads. FACT: Happy Meal with burger, fries, and a sprite: 580 calories. Salad with Blue Cheese: 360.. but you're still freak'n hungry! Salad without dressing (LOL), yeah.. good luck!!!

Since the clown and a toy apparently "lure" children to happy meals (and not the $1 value menu that appeals to adults) I want to raise awareness to the current administration on other luring characters that have affected my eating disorder(s):

+ M & M's peanut guys (the red peanut is turning me into a commie)
+ Cracker Jack's sailor kid (Don't ask, Don't Tell.. right?)
+ Coco Puff's Cuckoo bird (It's teaching me that its OK to feed chocolate to animals)
+ Orville Redenbacker (Being old shouldn't be so cool).
+ Little Debbie (makes me feel like a pedephile when I say I'm eating a little debbie).

I think all packaging moving forward should always feature a "Turd" icon if the contents are questionable (like the "Parental Advisory" icon). I mean.. who would by a product that's certified "Turd?"

Thanks You.

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki

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