Woman sues McDonald's over Happy Meals
December 15th, 2010
02:04 PM ET

Woman sues McDonald's over Happy Meals

A California woman is suing McDonald's claiming the fast-food giant uses toys to market directly to young children. Monet Parham, a Sacramento, California, mother of two small children filed the lawsuit Wednesday in San Francisco along with health, nutrition and food safety advocates Center for Science in the Public Interest . CSPI is seeking court approval to proceed as a class action.

Parham, a 41-year old state employee, says her kids repeatedly ask for Happy Meals, mainly for the toys. "We have to say no to our kids so many times and McDonald's makes that so much harder to do. 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."

Michael Jacobson, CSPI's executive director accused McDonald's of "one of the most insidious marketing practices–dangling a toy in front of a small child." Jacobson called the practice "unfair, deceptive and illegal' in California and many other states. "The food industry has a responsibility not to intrude into families by using sleazy marketing techniques getting kids to pester their parents."

Jacobson compared the tactics to tobacco companies marketing to kids with things like Joe Camel. "In this instance, McDonald's is worse. They are going straight at little kids. The company is using unfair techniques to persuade the kids to persuade the parents to go to McDonald's. Tobacco companies don't go after 3 year-olds. Neither does Coca Cola or Pepsi."

In 2006, fast food companies spent over $520 million on advertising and toys to market kids meals. More than $350 million of that was for toys alone. Last month, The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that requires happy meals and other fast food offerings with toys meet new nutritional standards or be removed from menus. It goes into effect next December.

McDonald's says it is proud of its Happy Meals and will vigorously defend the company's brand, its reputation and its food. "We stand on our 30-year track record of providing a fun experience for kids and families at McDonald's," said Bridget Coffing, a company spokesperson. "We listen to our customers, and parents consistently tell us they approve of our Happy Meals. 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."

This is not the first time CSPI has challenged fast food companies in court. In 2006 the organization went after Kellogg for marketing cereals loaded with sugar to children. In that case CSPI and Kellogg reached a settlement. CSPI also sued Kentucky Fried Chicken for frying its chicken in partially hydrogenated oil, which is high in trans fat. When KFC phased out the oil, CSPI dropped the lawsuit.

soundoff (2,110 Responses)
  1. Janna

    How many people does it take to bully someone who is placed in the news for doing what other people have already done, make a lawsuit against happy meals?

    How many lawsuits are out there against other similar things that are not posted in the news??

    Did you forget that it's her freedom to work, make money, and spend it how ever she wants including lawsuits so long as her kids are taken care of within the laws of the government?

    Take her kids away? Why, because she MIGHT be greedy like most Americans who DO buy toys, movies, games, and junk food for their kids on a monthly, if not weekly basis?

    Abuse, neglect, and drugged out parents are the ones who don't deserve to raise their kids. Teen mothers do not need to raise a kid. This mother is just another American being paid to be the face of a lawsuit for some organized group.

    hahaha or did you not notice?!?! lmao at ALL of YOU.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Superjim

    How about this....turn the tv off and stop pushing garbage in your kid's heads. Or maybe your next lawsuit is to sue major networks for targeting children on advertising and mindless tv shows.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. SkinnyinArkansas

    Ok so if I drive by city parks and alllllll my kids talk about is PLAYING PLAYING PLAYING............but its too cold to go outside..........I can sue the city because they are "dangling" parks on the corners in towns tempting my kids to drive me CRAZY !!??? This woman needs a good fried burger for her mouth.............and maybe a fry

    December 16, 2010 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jonathan

    Yes, let's take away ALL parental responsibility and let the government make all of our choices, including disciplining our children and raising them properly! Sounds so very reminescent of something we used to think was so bad... some kind of war... a cold one.. and Red people..

    December 16, 2010 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Davey

    That's easy, make the toys free. But the adult has to purchase a meal.

    Maybe the mom should sue movie studios for marketing movie figure toys through McDonalds. ha

    December 16, 2010 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Aaron

    The state should take this woman's kids away from her and put them with a family run by parents who arent pathetics dregs of society. This woman should not be allowed to raise kids.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. missy

    Eat right and excersise – all kids need to learn this from their parents. Avoiding temptation goes right along with that. It's not up to anyone else its your job as parents to say no, you can't have everything you think you must have (ie happy meals). Grow up and raise your own kids, no one said it would be easy. Earn their respect and you may find a whole new enjoyment from parenting, one that can't be won in a lawsuit.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sparky

    As much as a happy meals costs......
    my kid better get a flippin' toy!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. cman

    gosh i just want to see this woman so I can laugh at her.....

    December 16, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. eas21

    someone should sue her for wasting taxpayers money and not being able to be a parent. what a dope!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tiffany

    Seriously? McDonald's is one of the biggest employers in the world and if people keep suing over stupid stuff like this then its gonna effect the economy in a bad way. You're the grown ups with the lisence and and the job, so act like it. Get the milk and veggies for the kids meal, and ask them to leave out the toy.... You do know thats possible right? She so gonna lose this case, because in the end, this lady brought this on herself, and all of those other options are available to her.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rex O Slate

      I certainly hope that she will lose the case, but you must understand that she and her fellow activists in San Francisco won their battle there. Next on their agenda is California, then the USA and then the world. This case is NOT simply that of a concerned mother, it is a case being executed by an employee of the California government agency, the California Department of Public Health. So much for transparency in government.

      December 16, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
  12. Kevin

    I would like to sue Budweiser becuase it lures me with the taste of sweet, sweet alcohol.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. jrock

    This lady is pathetic, someone should b-tch slap her

    December 16, 2010 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sheryl

    I'm glad some people have so much time and money on their hands that they can play these stupid games. She ought to tell her nanny to take her kids outside to play and stop going to McDonald's. In the mean time, the rest of us with common sense will continue to raise our own children.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Alan

    This is rediculous and sad. This country is suing itself into paralyzation. Jail the lawyers representing this woman and condemn them to jail for 1 year, eating Happy Meals.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Fridayet

    THIS LADY IS A DUMBA$$!!!!!!!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. ashley

    My toddlers don't bug me for McDonalds... I don't take them there... ever. I want control over their eating choices, so I take the actions necessary to have that control, and that means not taking them to McDonalds and saying 'no' to other things when necessary... it's called parenting.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Lokust

    Learn to parent, woman! If you can't say no to your kids, maybe they should be taken away from you.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Bill

    What an idiot. This is just as dumb as the "It's McDonalds' fault that my kids are fat" argument. Learn to parent, knucklehead. It is clear she is just the puppet at the tip of the spear for this advocate group but allowing herself to look like such a moron is silly. I wonder how much she is getting paid?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Patricia

    I am surprised no one has pointed out that you can get apple slices, instead of fries, and a milk or juice instead of pop. I think ours also have grilled cheese. Instand nutritious happy meal, and still a toy. So McDonalds offers the choices, you as the parent have to order them. Just a thought.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Twowolves

    We have become a country of morons. We have two boys. They loved getting McDonald's Happy Meals and playing with the toys. Was it a problem? No. Why? BECAUSE I'M THE PARENT! Holy crap, people. McDonald's is selling the same product they've been selling for decades, and now it's a problem? No. It's not a problem with McDonalds. It's a problem with gutless stupid parents who either don't know how to say no to their kids, or, can't figure it out that maybe they should stop going to McDonalds! So tell me, how overweight are the people complaining about junk food being pushed on their kids? Here's a tip, eat healthier. Learn about tasty healthy foods your kids will like, and stop relying on fast food. If you're eating fast food more than once or twice a month, you need to change your eating habits instead of blaming McDonalds. Idiots.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. AuntySocial

    What a loser. Doesn't she know you can buy the toys without buying the meal? I have done so on many occasions. Plus if you do buy the meal, you don't have to get fries or a soft drink. You can buy it with alternatives. What is she going to do if this fails? Sue Count Chocula over the toys in the cereal?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Ariana

    This is yet ANOTHER example of people wanting children but not wanting to be PARENTS. I'm 32 almost 33 years old and I can recall several instances where my mother said No you can't have McDonalds today. It's HER responsibility to police her kids,not McDonalds, and not the government. Whats next? Is she going to sue Nickolodean because Spongebob Squarepants makes her kids act stupid?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Mom w/ a backbone

    give me a break! be a parent and say the word "no". If you are consistent when you need to be then it is not a problem. my kids know that we don't go often and if we say "no" when they ask then they are not to whine and fuss. it is called being a parent and take responsibility for your children.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Michelle

    This is crazy nonsense! I remember years ago when McDonalds served cookies in their Happy Meals. They do not anymore and I never knew why. I am sure now days it would be unthinkable because of childhood obesity.
    If you think you are big enough to have kids then act like a parent! I know how to discipline my child and tell him no. I have no problem with Happy Meals and my son knows he does not get his toy until all or most of his food is eaten. and no our son or our family has any problems with weight. I think it is awesome that some people care about our kids enough to offer toys. Sounds like this parent does not know how to let her kids have any fun. They will grow up hating her and being ebarassed.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. mytwocents

    there was a time that it was against the law for a manufacturer to market a toy based on a movie or tv show. we changed that law and took the government out of our living rooms giving people back the right to take responsiblity for thier lives. how is this different?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Allison

    This story is ridiculous in my opinion. As a child, I enjoyed McDonalds and even splurge a time or two in my adulthood. If the parent simply has difficulty saying no to their children, then there are several steps the parent can take. If it is simply the toy that is drawing the child to McDonalds, then order healthier options in the Happy Meal. The other alternative is to give them the toy and toss the food out. Sure, it would be an expensive toy, but it would put an end to an unnecessary lawsuit.

    My suggestion would be for the parent to keep their foot on the gas pedal and not turn into McDonalds, place the order for their kids, pay for the Happy Meal, and hand it to them in the backseat.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Shauna

    My kids go to McDonalds and they could care less about the toys. Half the thime they don't even open them because they are cheap (not all the time). I don't understand how you can blame McD's for your own issues of not knowing how or wanting to parent. A parent is not a childs best friend but they are a parent who is there to love, guide and protect their child and that means being the bad guy once in awhile. Blaming somebody else for your reason you had to say no is only teaching your child to not take responsibility in their life. Its people like this woman who ruin so many things for others for her own selfish reasons.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. joslsamp

    I think it's really pathetic how some people are... happy meals have toys so let’s sue them, video games and tv make kids violent so let’s sue them… it all comes down to the fact that the “Parents” make the money and they are the ones who buy it for the kids. You want to blame someone else to make yourself feel better when you look in the mirror… so who is to blame for you not having a backbone?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. KATinKY

    I think I will sue McDonalds because they are messing with my head...I want a MOCHA FRAPPE everyday LOL...how pathetic is that. The problem lies withiin Parham not McDonalds. What next sue all the makers of video games for getting in our kids heads & making them want to play. She needs to be accountable for her children & not place the blame on McDs.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Lori

    I hope she never has her kids watching TV, logging into the internet, or going to stores. Wake up, this is
    America. I think it's unfortunate that we want so much stuff, and its coming at us from all directions. But we, and our kids, can be happy well adjusted people without a constant diet of hyped "things."

    December 16, 2010 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Ian

    Ludicrous. This lady is a moron and clearly can't handle being a parent.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply

    What?........Really?.......Just get a Happy Meal box fill it with Tofu, bean sprouts and a squash smoothie and tell them they have to eat it all before they get the toy and I'll bet you every time they see arches they will keep their little mouths shut!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Mac

    This woman is a COMPLETE IDIOT !!!! How about trying to be a parent – my kids like happy meal toys – but I am a parent and I teach my kids how to eat healthy – she is just looking for money so she can sit on the couch – watch TV and eat Big Macs. What a STUPID woman.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Janet P.

    I think all of you have forgotten that there is an epidemic of obesity. This women (and public health professional) is trying to make a point. In this country, Public Health is given the right to police. Remember when there were candy cigarettes, tobacco ads aimed at minors, etc. These were all addressed through policy. I don't think this a problem of just McDonalds. It is all of the fast food businesses. I am not sure that a law suit is the right way to go. I think it would be better done by developing legislation that bans fast food toys. In New York they were able to pass legislation to ban trans fats in fast food and that has made a huge difference. This is not big brother this is the what Public Health is meant to do. Smoking bans is another example.

    Don't just go around attacking someone who is trying to make an effort to address the obesity epidemic without know the whole story. People who do that are the stupid ones. Get educated.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mac

      Janet – this woman should spend time taking parenting classes – instead of suing McDonalds. She is wasting the courts time with this. Courts are busy enough – they should not have to take time over a stupid lawsuit because a woman can not stand up and be a parent. She is a MORON !!!

      December 16, 2010 at 09:41 | Report abuse |
    • Shauna

      Each person has their own choice on whether to purchase these Happy Meals and she ruining it for those of us who don'at abuse it and give it to our children all the time. This isn't about obesity – its about parenting and saying no to your child when the time comes for it. If we all said yes to our kids when they wanted to go to McD's then you would never get your food because the line would be so long. She is blaming somebody else for her issues just like so many people do – people need to take responsibility for their actions. They choose what they put in their mouths and what they allow their children to put in their mouths. Bad food is not dancing in front of them saying eat me.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:03 | Report abuse |
    • Rex O Slate

      Janet – You are correct. this woman is a health care professional. She is NOT simply a concerned mother. I think, however, you may be missing the point of the overwhelming majority of the posters. They find the concept of the Happy Meal as NOT being the evil plot of a fast food chain to destroy or impair the health of our children. Rather a positive product, that many feel should be controlled by proper parenting and not the heavy hand of government. You are correct that the Department of Health should look out for the welfare of our citizens, but what happened to public education as the means to promote the welfare of society in this area. The impression that she is just a concerned mother is a planned deception. Do we need a society of zombies or an educated society capable of making wise choices?

      December 16, 2010 at 10:06 | Report abuse |
  36. Jeepers

    I think people are missing the point here. They are marketing to children, which is ultimately what they want to stop, regardless of how the parent handles that. They should not be marketing to children...period.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      we need to get rid of health nuts like yourself.. and not tell others what they can and cant eat if they market to children so what.. the food isnt gonna kill them..kids need some enjoyment..not fed rabbit food.

      December 16, 2010 at 09:40 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Sure you can – toy companies do all the time! Its just food versus toys, games and dolls. Don't be ridiculous...

      December 16, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
    • Jeepers

      Joe...really? Health = bad...obesity and heart disease = good. Really?

      December 16, 2010 at 09:50 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      just because someone is over weight does not mean they have health problems i've know many healthy big people .. ....the only reason idiots like yourself are against big people is the media tells everyone they should look like some sickly anorexic olsen twin.

      December 16, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse |
    • Jeepers

      You're probably right, Joe...it couldn't possibly be something like, I don't know...personal experience. My overweight father died suddenly and prematurely of a heart attack. But yeah...I'm sure it's just the media telling me health is overrated.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:39 | Report abuse |
  37. Joe

    the real issue here is that we need to get rid of health nuts..they are ruining america

    December 16, 2010 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. ACLAW

    You say that its outrageous and ridiculous, but being a law student I will almost guarantee that McDonald's will settle out of court just due to the costs of a full trial and all of the money of changing their marketing and packaging if they lose. Just because it sounds ridiculous does not mean that its not a winner. May I recall the lady that got payed millions for spilling coffee on herself? She will receive some form of financial compensation.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mac

      Good – if she does win – then I am going to sue McDonalds for making the fries to large. I could use a few bucks to spend on myself and go on vacation. We have biger problems people – stop taking up the courts time with STUPID lawsuits. She is just looking for a quick buck. If she can't tell her kids no – then maybe she needs to learn how to be a parent.

      December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse |
  39. Summer819

    Let's practice saying "NO" to our children. It's not that difficult. Perhaps if she said no more often to their pleas for things she doesn't like, they wouldn't ask for something like this constantly. And maybe it's where I live, but there aren't enough commercials advertising what's in the kids meals for my kids to even know.

    Like most Americans, I was allowed happy meals occasionally and I'm perfectly healthy and not overweight It's called setting an example for your child so they know what is healthy. If a parent can't say no to their child and can't teach them healthy habits then perhaps they should take parenting classes. If a parent wants to teach their kids that suing over something the parent has total control over spending money on, then there are some serious issues that should be addressed within the home.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Spilex

    Imagine that, a parent with no parenting skills in this day and age. Knock me over with a feather. People who want children should have to pass a test and obtain a license! She would have failed the test, and had no children, problem solved. I ate at Mcdonalds a few weeks ago, can I get in on this lawsuit? WOW!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Pierre

    What happened to responsible parenthood practices? Since when Parents cannot say "NO" to children when they want something that is not good for them? This lawsuite shows how irresponsible this Jacobson women is since she obviously does not assume the responsibilities that come along with her children. Her children should be placed in foster homes

    December 16, 2010 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Anomalous

    Why stop there? Might as well go after all the toy companies that supply all the fast food chains with food. Unbelievable!!! Where do these people come from?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Rcmarti

    I wonder how many Happy Meals this "mother" had in her lifetime and if her parents said NO to her until finally giving in. If her children are being bombarded with advertising for the meal, then maybe she should take away the source that presents it. I think it is clear to everyone here that the only objective of this is money and the issue of acceptable food is only going to go by the wayside. Certainly this woman has no skills in good parenting if her children get what ever they want when they want it only by constantly asking for it. Dear Ms. Parham, please take control of yourself and become a responsible parent to your children; you are the only one who should set the ground rules. Remember the product is available to you, you have the chioce of purchasing it, and if the only goal is to get the toy, it can be purchased without having to get the food that comes along with it; if you give into your kids then buy the toy and not the food that evedently you detest.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. doctor

    turn off the TV and your kids will have no awareness of the damn meals....your lack of responsibility is the problem not McDonald's.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. KarenLuke

    I do not agree with what this woman is trying to do. I feel she makes it sound like she has no choice but to go to McDonalds. It makes me mad that somehow it is their fault for her lack of control. Do her kids tell her what to do and who is the one that drives them to get the food?? If the food is that unhealthy she has a freedom of choice whether to go there or not. I think her kids are extremely spoiled and she just can't say NO!!! Don't blame McDonalds!!!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Rob

    The frickin lawyer is comparing McDs to tobacco companies and Joe Camel. Well, DUH, to tobacco is illegal for minors, so how in the hell can anyone compare the two???? McD's is NOT being deceptive either.

    The best comparison is toy companies – they are certainly allowed to show their product on tv, so why can't a food company?

    Bottom line: there is NO basis for this at all – no precedent. Tobacco is illegal for kids, so there is NO way you can tie to two together.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Edwin


    December 16, 2010 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Ginny

    Wow...I agree with all o fyou. Sad that this woman can't control her kids. Everybody wants someone to blame for their issues, and sadly a lot people are trying to blame the government these days.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Mario

    I hope McDonald's wins this and figures out a way to counter sue this woman.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Devin P

    I was one of those kids! I got into the bad eating habbit and ended up weight 280 my senior year; their food becomes addictive. I lost the wieght but am scarred for life.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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