Print 140 comment(s) - last by Shadowmaster62.. on Dec 21 at 8:32 AM

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.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Seriously lady?
By Solandri on 12/16/2010 10:07:22 PM , Rating: 4
Actually, the hot coffee law suit wasn't about her being stupid and spilling the coffee. It was the fact that McDonald's purchased sub par coffee and heated it to unreasonably high temperatures in order to produce the scent all coffee drinkers know and love.

Actually, the coffee wasn't too hot. That was one of the brilliant pieces of misinformation created by her lawyers. They went around and surveyed the coffee temperature at a bunch of nearby restaurants, found the lowest temperature, and reported that as "other establishments sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures". Notice how their phrasing makes it sound like the typical establishment sells coffee at the lower temperature, when in fact the one selling it at the temperature they were referencing probably had the machine set wrong. In contrast, someone seeking to present facts would've given the temperatures of the coffee machines at all the restaurants nearby. Which they couldn't do because it would torpedo their case and show that McDonalds' coffee wasn't set any higher than coffee at other restaurants.

Bunn (the manufacturer of most of the coffee equipment sold to restaurants) recommends their machines be set at the 175-185 F temperature range the McDonalds' coffee machine was set at. This is still their recommended temperature setting, and is just 5 degrees off from the 180-190 F standard McDonalds was advised to use corporate-wide at the time.

The case is a textbook example of how a lawyer can use tricky wording, misdirection, lying by omission, and elicit emotional responses from jurors (most of their argument centered on the horrific burns the client suffered) to arrive at a decision not based on the facts of the case.

Also, she didn't win millions of dollars as most people believe either. Appeals brought the number down to something much more reasonable (like medical and court costs plus a few thousand).

The final adjusted award was $640,000, before they settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. So it's almost certainly into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

RE: Seriously lady?
By mcnabney on 12/17/2010 9:40:30 AM , Rating: 1
Actually the coffee was too hot and it was deliberately set that way by their corporate office. Your own remarks identify that.

The McDonalds policy was to produce coffee outside of the machine's specification. So to the judge/jury the company took specific action to make their product less safe despite the coffee machine manufactures recommended settings. That is why McDonalds lost in court. Obviously the original number was idiotically high, but McDonalds was clearly at fault here.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Lakku on 12/18/2010 5:23:43 AM , Rating: 2
I believe you're the one being the lawyer now, not giving us the full story to get your view or point across. You left out the part of the plaintiff's case where they also set out to prove that 190 degrees was far too hot to be serving coffee, regardless of what was the suggested setting by corporate or Bunn.

McDonald's argued during the trial that customers wanted it that hot because they intended to consume it at work or back at home, wherever their destination was. This, despite the fact they had over 700 hundred complaints from 1982 to 1992 of coffee burning or scalding the mouth, throat, or if spilled, the skin. There was medical evidence of third degree burns in some of the cases, so McDonald's knew there was a problem. They also knew that most customers did in fact intended to drink it on the way to work, by way of their own research.

Lastly, and this is where you part comes in, coffee generally is served well below 190 degrees at other establishments. This is important, because the case revolved around McDonald's knowing it was too hot, and that other places did not serve it at this temp. They proved with home coffee makers that coffee from many of them was 135 to 140 or so degrees (though this may not be the case with all coffee makers, it is irrelevant to the facts here).

The case, which resulted in a woman suffering third degree burns and requiring 2 years of medical work, did in fact have merit, mostly based on the fact McDonald's knew it was too hot, and ignored that fact. Ignored it even after 700 burn complaints.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Targon on 12/18/2010 8:47:33 AM , Rating: 2
Just for the sake of argument, just because most people are stupid does not mean that we should be happy with stupidity. Just because other places set the temperature lower does not make it CORRECT that it is at that temperature.

You make coffee or hot chocolate at home, and in general, it starts by being too hot, so you test it, then wait, or add something to cool it, then test again, or wait. That is normal for hot beverages!

Or, if the average traffic light is set to 2 minutes per cycle and the light takes 2 minutes and 15 seconds, that does not mean you should run the light because the light you are at is set differently. People need to understand that you have to pay attention to the world around them, and to respond to differences between what they expect and what is really there.

Basically, people need to wake up and pay attention to the world around them, and I don't mean just reading the newspaper or watching the news on TV.

From your perspective, if people continually drive over the grass on an empty lot(instead of staying on the road), if the owner of the property builds a wall to keep it from happening and drivers get hurt because they run their car into the wall, it suddenly is the fault of the owner of the property that the driver was stupid and didn't pay attention.

Stupidity should never be rewarded, and honestly, if people would stop protecting stupid people from doing stupid things, then we would have fewer stupid people in the world and we would have fewer problems. If you break into a public building and fall down a set of stairs in the dark, you should NOT have the right to sue because there was no exit sign or warnings that can be read in the dark warning about the stairs. If you try to rob someone, and a police officer warns you to stop or he/she will fire, failure to stop means you DESERVE to be shot, with no potential for excessive force lawsuits.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki