McDonald's may be sued over Happy Meal toys

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says it will file a lawsuit against McDonald's for marketing toys with its Happy Meals. The center says the practice of pairing toys with junk food is "unfair, deceptive and illegal" under consumer protection laws in some states.

From the Center for Science in the Public Interest statement:

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

Of the 24 possible Happy Meal combinations that McDonald's describes on its website, all exceed 430 calories (430 is one-third of the 1,300- calorie recommended daily intake for children 4 to 8 years old).

In a statement, McDonald's defended its Happy Meals, which the fast-food chain introduced in 1979. Among the states the CSPI says McDonald's Happy Meals violate consumer protection laws are Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey as well as the District of Columbia.

Will the lawsuit work to change McDonald's ways? Past history may provide a clue. After all, this isn't CSPI's first lawsuit against fast-food chains. Previously, CSPI sued Kentucky Fried Chicken for using partially hydrogenated oil, which made the restaurant's chicken high in transfat. The lawsuit was dropped when KFC agreed to phase out the oils. And in 2006, CSPI and Kellogg came to an agreement over marketing for its sugary cereals and other junk food.

What do you think? Should McDonald's change its marketing?

About the author

Daryl Paranada is the associate web producer for Marketplace overseeing all daily website content and production, as well as producing multimedia features -- including the popular economic explainer series Whiteboard -- and special projects. Follow him on Twitter @darylparanada.

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