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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 xrodney on 12/17/2010 4:21:19 AM , Rating: 1
Evidently you don't know much about children and human mentality at all.
Point is that they are promoting junk food and not healthy ones, making it better deal and its really easy to elude child with toys and also there is most of food offered junk with only very few healthy options.

Why don't they promote good food ? Because they don't care about us, just about how much money they make and from junk food they make more.

I think in some countries companies providing food are already forced to avoid some junk ingredients in food and make at least some part of their offering healthy.

As for me personally I will welcome any way they are forced to sell as many healthy food as possible as often its really hard to make choice between 30 types of junk and 2 healthy foods as none want to eat same thing 5 times a day.

RE: Seriously lady?
By HueyD on 12/17/2010 9:02:31 AM , Rating: 2
Why McDonalds??? Burger King, Wendy's, Five Guy's, etc... their all foods that have high fat content. They should investigate what their kids are eating at the public schools, I would bet my paycheck the fat content at the public schools it about the same as the food at any of these fast food joints.

This seems to be the norm, its always "their" fault. People need to take responsibility for their actions or in-action in this case.

RE: Seriously lady?
By xrodney on 12/20/2010 5:14:19 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps because McDonald is biggest.
Outside of US McDonald is most known and offers most junk food.
Also its not just about amount of fat but also other stuff.
And quite contrary, food in school is controlled.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Lerianis on 12/17/2010 2:03:30 PM , Rating: 2
xrodney, I will point this out slowly and maybe it will sink in: McDONALDS FOOD IS NO MORE NOR LESS HEALTHY THAN STUFF MADE AT HOME!

Got that! Seriously, their food is no more nor less healthy today than fried foods made at HOME! Which a lot of families make at home today!

It's time to stop bashing on McDonald's and stop bashing on fried foods in general. With all due respect, I ate them a LOT when I went off my self-imposed diet during the summer as a child.
Was I overweight? Hell no, I always tested as being underweight!
Even during school, McDonald's food was usually my 'one meal a day if that'.

So, the problem is not the food.... the problem is that parents have been terrified into not letting their children out of their homes with the 'stranger danger' and 'pedophile/pedosexual threat'.
Therefore, their children get fat!

RE: Seriously lady?
By Helbore on 12/17/2010 4:10:19 PM , Rating: 2
Evidently you don't know much about children and human mentality at all.

You're arguing that some people are too stupid or incompetant to make their own decisions, so the government should make them for them instead. That's not a world I'd want to live in.

Besides, your whole argument falls apart on the basis that most parents are capable of making good judgments and are able to control their children. Children stamp their feet and demand outrageous things ALL THE TIME! Evidently, you don't know much aobut children, or you'd be aware of this fact. It ain't just about McDonalds, its about anything they want to have. A good parent knows how to tell their kid "no."

Because in the end, that's all they need to do. The kid can't get in the car, drive themselves to McDs and buy the food themselves. They're a kid! They can't drive! They have no money! It's the parents who choose to do it.

As for me personally I will welcome any way they are forced to sell as many healthy food as possible as often its really hard to make choice between 30 types of junk and 2 healthy foods as none want to eat same thing 5 times a day.

People like you need to be kept out of government (I hope you're not in such a position). Who are you to force such decisions on people? As an adult, I have a right to eat unhealthy foods if I want. What gives you the right to decide that I can't and should only eat healthy foods?

It's not like I currently can't eat healthy foods. I just don't go to McDonalds if I'm after a healthy meal. There are other places for that. The thing is, its my choice to decide which place I want to go to and how often. It is not and should not be the government's.

RE: Seriously lady?
By Fritzr on 12/17/2010 11:04:14 PM , Rating: 2
Fast food menus vary according to market. The last time I was in a McDonalds, the fried chicken with rice was the most popular item. They sell very few burgers & fries at that location. It was outside US and the local McDo sold what the customers wanted.

In India they do not sell meat...again McDonalds

In US they do sell hamburgers, french fries & soda pop, because that is what US customers expect to find. They can change the menu and offer other items, but they have much less control when it comes to telling the customer what they are allowed to order.

Even KFC in US has started to put their fried chicken & picnic food items to the side to offer processed chicken product sandwiches as the items that they prefer to promote.

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