Group intends to sue over Happy Meal toys

John O'Brien Jun. 23, 2010, 1:37pm

Ronald McDonald

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A watchdog group says it intends to sue McDonald's if the fast-food chain refuses to stop giving away toys with its Happy Meals.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest claims McDonald's promising toys to children keeps them from choosing healthier alternatives and contributes to childhood obesity. Tuesday, the center threatened McDonald's with a lawsuit.

"McDonald's is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children," CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner said.

"McDonald's use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children's developmental immaturity - all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It's a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction."

The center points to the nutritional information of Happy Meals and says McDonald's pledged in 2007 not to advertise children's meals that contained more than 600 calories.

"Thus, the brief glimpses of actual food in McDonald's youth-directed advertising, show Apple Dippers and low-fat milk as part of either a 4-piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal or a Hamburger Happy Meal," the center says.

"But toys, a powerful temptation for kids, are included with all Happy Meals, regardless of nutrition."

There are 24 possible Happy Meal combinations, and all are more than 430 calories (one-third the recommended daily intake for children), the center says. A cheeseburger, French Fries and Sprite has 640 calories and seven grams of saturated fat.

Santa Clara County in California has passed an ordinance preventing toys or kid-oriented incentives as a giveaway with unhealthy meals.

The center claims McDonald's is in violation of consumer protection laws in Massachusetts, Texas, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and California.

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