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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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By dgingeri on 12/16/2010 5:37:59 PM , Rating: 2
My sister is a waitress at a large chain of US sit down restaurants. She's got so much seniority and skill at her job, she is a designated wait staff "trainer". So, she has very little free time to cook and take care of the kids. She works about 45-50 hours a week. He husband is a store manager at this same chain of restaurants, and works 60-70 hours a week. She has 3 kids, ages 11, 15, and 19, who eat fast food 5-10 times a week, and get delivered pizza and/or pasta 3-4 times a week.

Before you jump to conclusions, all three are healthy weight. My 19 year old nephew happens to be more than a little underweight at 120lbs at 5'8". My 15 year old niece is 5' and 120lbs, but she's also a competitive Tae Kwon Do fighter with a red belt. She's quite fit and strong, and far from overweight as he weigh would suggest. (Remember muscle weighs more than fat.) My 11 year old nephew is also quite fit, and has abs I envy.

The difference isn't genetics. My sister, despite her heavy work week, pushes her kids to get involved in school and community activities. The boys are limited to 10 hours of video games and TV each. She keeps a running total each week. All other times, they need to be doing something active and out of the house, or their homework. (Recently, she's been complaining that the school is sending them home with too much homework that is impacting her 11 year old's ability to be active. Darn lazy teachers.) She also instills in them the need to eat enough to feel satisfied and no more.

The parents need to be held responsible for their kids getting fat. They need to instill in them the need to be active from a very early age. The parents have the choice to say "no" to their kids.

"Clean your plate" is a dangerous way to teach kids to eat, especially in this day and age. There should be leftovers, and kids should very rarely feel stuffed. They should feel it as uncomfortable, not pleasurable. (On a side note, I still feel a little guilty leaving food to be thrown away, but I push myself much of the time to eat only "just enough".)

This lawsuit is just a bunch of total garbage. It should be dismissed as having no merit.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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