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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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RE: Seriously lady?
By nolisi on 12/16/2010 5:55:08 PM , Rating: 2
I'm tickled pink by the idea that many of those defending McDonalds seem to not be in favor of government controlling what McDonalds can advertise and sell, no matter how much potential for harm there is, but they seem to be in favor of government controlling who can have kids. Seems like a mild double standard to me...

FYI, I'm in favor of people controlling what they eat. But I'm also in favor of truth/disclosure in advertising and people being well informed about what they eat. I don't see it as just McDonalds responsibility, nor just parents responsibility, but everyones responsibility...

RE: Seriously lady?
By JackQW on 12/16/2010 8:51:31 PM , Rating: 4
Truth in advertising is good. I think everyone agrees on that.

All they're trying to do is head 'em off at the pass.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

... and the root source of prevention in this case is common sense, of which these parents have none.

I'm sure are already restricted by the 'No Kids For You' act of the People's Republic of America, since they have the constitution overriding authority to restrict everything else -- like McD's selling.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Totally on 12/17/2010 1:07:31 AM , Rating: 2
No, not really. Right to run a business vs. Abusing the privilege of being a parent.

RE: Seriously lady?
By knutjb on 12/17/2010 5:23:21 AM , Rating: 5
They are required to provide nutrition info That was oh so tough to find.
McDonalds has to provide this by law. Parents have the choice and some are choosing poorly by claiming victim status.

Look at Starbucks Who plans on suing them? I know a lot of kids who spend more time there than at the golden arches.

RE: Seriously lady?
By invidious on 12/17/2010 9:30:10 AM , Rating: 2
People with no sense or humor shouldn't be allowed to procreate either.

RE: Seriously lady?
By The Raven on 12/17/2010 10:09:59 AM , Rating: 4
It's not that anyone is defending McD's. Freedom is being defended here. I personally hate McD's. The food is crap, I'm sick of seeing their commercials, and I hate their stupid clown (although I do like his charity and he was very nice to me when he stopped by a location in Perryville, MO).

My kid has gone to McD's and played on the playplace and got a happy meal and felt like he had just gone to Disneyland. Ever since he has a magnatism to the place... I wonder why...

Though my wife has taken him maybe 5 times in his 4 years, I have never taken him. And it is soley because I hate the place. He asks to go whenever we see the arches (but not so much lately), but we tell him "no." I take him to places with play places and toys and what not, so we are not denying him a childhood or anything lol.

But with all that said, I like the fact that there are McD's out there for when I want to take him out for a quick treat. If they disappeared and were replaced with Arby's I'd be much happier, but I can appreciate the place a little and it seems that there are people who appreciate it more than me.

If these people want to get fat, unhealthy, and raise their insurance rates and chances of dying early... go right ahead. You are a terrible parent if you do that to your kids, but if anyone loves them I'm guessing it is you and here in the US where we believe in the power of freedom, I have to trust your judgement. Otherwise we will have to ban abortion, circumcision, TV, and any thing else that the elite think is bad. We have freedom to do stupid things like waste time with vidya games and commenting on DT articles and even buy our kids meals that come with cheap toys from China. If you don't like it; don't do it. Period.

RE: Seriously lady?
By JakLee on 12/17/10, Rating: -1
RE: Seriously lady?
By just4U on 12/17/2010 9:20:47 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, ... I'll defend MCD's. Why not?

As a child in the 70s we were bombarded by comercials from all the big fastfood places of the time. I am sure many remember the Ronald Mcdonald comercials with hamburgler and the the colorful charachters they had.. Sure, we wanted to go. But it didn't make us fat.

Probably because we were alot more physically active back then as compared to the children of today. Falls to the parents to make sure their children are living a healthy (AND ACTIVE) lifestyle.. not Mcdonalds.

It should be noted to that overall their "fast food" isn't unhealthy for you.. atleast not in moderation. But that goes without saying as a "HAPPY MEAL" isn't going way overboard on the calories chart anyway.

This is just another stupid lawsuit trying to post the blame where it doesn't belong.. Total BS.

RE: Seriously lady?
By SandmanWN on 12/18/2010 3:47:30 AM , Rating: 3
This is just another stupid lawsuit trying to post the blame where it doesn't belong.. Total BS.

McD's should counter sue the parents for buying their kids into obesity. One stupid lawsuit practically begs for another.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Skywalker123 on 12/18/2010 11:25:30 AM , Rating: 3
Although I defend their right to sell it,McDonalds food is pure garbage.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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