Health Group Says It Will Sue McDonald's Over Happy Meals

McDonald's Happy MealIn June, the Center for Science and the Public Interest (CSPI) threatened to sue McDonald's (MCD) over the use of toys to promote Happy Meals. Now, it looks like it will finally happen.

CSPI had originally threatened to file suit against the world's largest restaurant chain by July. That timeline proved too optimistic to given the complexities of the case, according to Stephen Gardner, the organization's litigation director.

"Everything takes longer than I think because I am an optimist," he says in an interview. "It could be next week (when it will be filed), but it's more likely to be the week after."

The conflict between McDonald's and CSPI centers around childhood obesity rates, which have more than tripled over the past 30 years, Some argue that McDonald's and other purveyors of cheap, calorie-rich food bear some of the blame, an argument the fast-food chain rejects.

A Matter of Rights

McDonald's, which is fighting an effort in San Francisco to ban Happy Meal toys, has said that CSPI's claims are without merit. Chief Executive Jim Skinner wrote to the advocacy group in July saying that most consumers have no problems with how Happy Meals are marketed. "Parents, in particular, strongly believe that they have the right and responsibility to decide what's best for their children, not CSPI," he writes. "It's that simple."

According to Gardner, McDonald's is using the Happy Meal toys, which often promote movies, to deceptively market unhealthy food to children, who in turn beg their parents to take them to the restaurant. CSPI, he says, is trying to assist parents, not usurp their authority.

"Kids under the age of eight do not understand that they are being advertised to," Gardner says."It's without question that it's detrimental to kids."

The home of the Golden Arches is fighting against Happy Meal critics in California as well. Officials in Santa Clara voted in April to ban McDonald's and other fast-food restaurants from providing promotional toys. A similar measure is pending before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which would prevent chains from "putting toys in children's meals unless they include fruits and vegetables and don't have too many unhealthy calories," according to the Associated Press.

No surprisingly, McDonald's sees things differently.

"As we have previously stated, we will continue to work with city officials to identify a solution to the very important topic of childhood obesity," says Danya Proud, a company spokesperson, in a statement. "Even with the amendments the supervisors have made, this proposal is not what our customers want, nor is it something they asked for."

Investors don't appear to be too worried about the controversy. Shares of McDonald's are up more than 21% this year. Gardener says he isn't aware of other local governments demanding action on Happy Meal toys.

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i think this is such an interesting topic that we took to our blog to write our opinions and let everyone else write theirs. check it out at

October 18 2010 at 10:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why go after Mcdonalds? Go after the stupid lazy parents who cannot say No to their child. Mcdonalds has been around a long time and this child obesity is relatively new. the problem is parents do not want to take responcibilty and give the child what they want. it's called spoiling the child. say no and punish the child if they do not stop asking. If they have discipline they will stop. Learn to make dinner at home as a family will stop that also

October 13 2010 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What the heck is wrong with these people? Whats next I have to send a letter to Barack,Nancy and Harry to have my menu at home approved? American had better wake up! Whats next........

October 10 2010 at 2:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

mac dz is just like all other dumps that serve so called food. they are out to rip us all off. a little while back I went to one here in cedar rapids iowa and ordered a fish sandwich, with cheese. when i got it, it had just HALF a slice of prob fake cheese on it. ( I`m not sure of the fake part, but it would`nt surprise me), anyway, i took it back and said hey, I ordered a fish with cheese, not a fish with half a slice. They said o ok, but all we are doing is giving the public what they want. what the f kinda bull crap is that, there lying hunks of crap that think we are all idiots, I have not been back since, and i will never go back. they can take they`re half slice and stuff it.

October 08 2010 at 2:19 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tony's comment

Tony thats the great part you don't have to go back!

October 10 2010 at 2:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe at some point San Francisco nand the Morons that inhabit it will break off and sink!Far as I'm concerned it the"Sodom and Gammorah"of the US.San Franciscans can't mind their own friggin business,please go away!

October 07 2010 at 11:01 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

I agree with you mclockhart. sue the parents and leave McDonalds alone. This is one of the most dummest things I have heard. It's bad enough the goverment taking parents rights away now we have to deal with the CSPI.

October 07 2010 at 10:49 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rrobin0621's comment

It should not just be McDonalds if they are going to sue. All the fast food places are guilty of not having nutrional food and trying to draw in the kids. That king guy is really kind of scary to me and you can not tell me the little freckeled girl with braids is not trying to grt my business. I have seen plenty of oversized kids at al those places. The daughter and granddaughter both ate at Carls the other day and got frightfully sick how is that a good dining experience and healthy for you? We went to Wendys and the daughter asked for a hamburger and to hold the tomato. Well she got the burger and it had a tomato and when she went to pull out the tomato there was a stinkin bug inside the burger. That does not seem to healthy either. If you want to send CSPI a message write to the foundations that are supporting them and tell them what you think. If you subscribe to the "Nutrition Action Newletter" stop.

October 08 2010 at 10:01 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

McDonalds should sell the toy and give away the meal for free. That will solve this nonsense.

October 07 2010 at 9:31 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Don't tell us what we should eat or drink!

October 07 2010 at 7:49 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply


October 07 2010 at 6:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Mrs. G

Shame on you people....leave the kids & their toys alone!

October 07 2010 at 6:13 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply