home
RSS
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 (1,382 Responses)
  1. Venice Fosdyck

    ABSOLUTELY RIDICULUS!!! Tell your kids NO! Be a parent! WOW, people are crazy!!!

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

    While I think it is important as a parent to be able to say no to your child, and I do say no to McDonald's explaining that the food is not healthy, is of bad quality and all the packaging is bad for the earth, I do appreciate her point. I presume this is really about making a point and it is a point I agree with. I despise the current Happy Meal commercial, which runs during children's cartoons, that says if you want to give your child happiness then you have to give them a happy meal If it was a Joe Camel, smoking is happiness commercial, you would not all be calling this woman an idiot. My answer is to try to raise a media savvy child. When my six year old wants the toy or the McDonalds she sees on TV I tell her, "Oh I'll write the company and tell them that their advertising is working, they have suckered you into wanting something that is not good for you or not as cool as they make it look on TV. I find it a little sad to have to teach a six year old to be savvy about anything. There is just so much media that kids are exposed too we have help our children be media savvy and have a starting point with commercials that they are being lied to.

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

    Seriously?!?!? Grow a backbone, please, toys r us has plenty of toys that lure children as well. Are you finding your children demanding you to drive there as well, to pick up the latest doll or train set just because it is new this week? Rediculous!!!

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

    Grow a spine and tell your children no. If you think they are being exposed to much advertising, TURN OFF THE TV and read a book! Become a better parent and stop blaming others.

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

    If McDonalds stops putting toys in Happy Meals, Chinas GNP will drop at least 10%

    December 16, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jack

      there is truth in your amusing response. If we dont' buy it......they can't sell it.....

      December 16, 2010 at 10:18 | Report abuse |
  6. MCL

    Truly pathetic that a parent cannot take charge of her own children and say NO to fast food meals. Just another frivolous lawsuit clogging up the court systems.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. John

    Solution to this problem: Be a parent and say no to your child when they want McDonalds. Problem soved.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Robert

    Come on people can't anyone support this idiot?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. JB

    I agree that parents should have better control over their children and should be able to say "no". Unfortunately, two issues complicate the subject. First, parenting today is really bad. My wife and I are consistently amazed at how horrible kids are allowed to behave in stores, in restaurants, or on planes. It has gotten to the point where I am surprised to see a well behaved child. Secondly, people that eat at McDonalds are generally poor an uneducated. The marketing in their commercials and the pricing of their products is aimed at this market. These are the folks that need someone to look out for their best interests.

    I agree the issue sounds silly and wasteful at first, but think about it from another's point of view....

    December 16, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. lponto87

    this woman is an idiot

    December 16, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rob

    Jeepers: Toy companies market to children too, so parents spend money. Are you going to sue them too? Don't be stupid.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeepers

      Rob...why don't you dial it down a notch and attempt to have a civilized discussion without resorting to name calling, huh? Unchecked lawsuits are not good, but laws and lawsuits are there to help us keep large corporations "honest," so to speak. If cigarette companies are not allowed to market poison to children, then should fast food companies. Toys vs. toys in Happy Meals aren't the same thing.

      December 16, 2010 at 09:55 | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      Yes, Rob she is stupid and might i add lazy as well.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:13 | Report abuse |
    • Jeepers

      Anna, you seem to use the word "lazy" a lot to describe people you don't know. You might want to google the word "projection" and start asking yourself some questions about what it is you don't like about your own behavior.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:42 | Report abuse |
  12. spar10

    I'm an adult, and I buy Happy Meals for myself occasionally. The meals are exactly the right portions, even the 12-oz drink for me. Sometimes there is actually a toy that I like, too, for collector purposes, but that is rare. I'm small and I do not need the thousands of calories that they try to push on adults. I'll bet the person suing is a Gen Xer, and it's really all about HER.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. kp

    Lady....come back from Mamby Pamby Land and learn how to tell your kids "no!" and mean it, you Jack wagon!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jack

      hilarious......you made my day with this response. I'm still laughing.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
  14. PriPri

    Just do what I do, buy the toy not the food

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Josh

    How about NOT to take the kids to fast food restaurants if you are that health-conscious, haha.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. are you kidding me

    So can i sue hustler and playboy for giving me carpeltunnle syndrom?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DinkyD

      Ha!! Good one!

      December 16, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
  17. jack ripper

    What an EFFIN RETARD

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Joe, LA, CA

    "We listen to our customers, and parents consistently tell us they approve of our Happy Meals.. which ones?.. the illiterate ones?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Justin

    How about if this lady does not like that McDonalds gives a toy with a kids happy meal. Then maybe her a$$ should not go to McDonalds maybe she should make a home-made meal for her kids. I don't care for McDonald's food guess what I don't eat at McDonalds. What the court should do is ban this lady from ever going to McDonalds. Her kids can go with grandparents or friends family, but the mom is not allowed to step into a McDonalds.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Dear US Government

    Please discipline our children for us.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. shane hayes

    if YOUR the parent taken the KID(S) to Mickey D's your at fault. So tired of ppl blaming others for their mistakes.. Your kids wouldnt know what things where if you didnt ALLOW IT.. Kids these days are being rised tho be the adults.. what ever happened to the parents that believe in whoopings.. OH YEA their kids has the child abuse hotline number.. Ugh..

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. DinkyD

    This is absolutely ridiculous!! Hey lady, here's an idea: if you don't want your kids eating McDonald's food, DON'T BUY IT!!How STUPID are you?? 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."

    Oh cry me a river, lady. I guess this mother has a problem with saying, "no" to her children. Love to see what kind of monsters they grow up into. Great parenting job, mom. Instead of teaching your children how to be responsible for their own choices, you're teaching them to simply blame everyone else for their own shortcomings, as that's what you seem very good at. God forbid you DON'T go to McDonald's or tell your whiny brat of a kid that they can't have something. Pathetic!!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Sean ehrenberg

    She needs to get off her a** and tell her kids no and not give in. I say she just wants the money from the lawsuit, because it's easy money. Stop making everyone suffer because you're lazy and take control. If she can't say no now while they're young, she's going to have a hard time when they're teens. Have fun.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Mark

    Someone needs to sue the mother for stupidity. Did the kids drive to Mcdonalds on their own? She works for the state of California? Hopefully not in the Child Services division. Maybe the mother could get sone parenting classes at taxpayers expense. Like they say..."you can't fix stupid".

    December 16, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. php5001

    Solution: learn to discipline your child. I'm 24 now and when I was a child, no meant no. You didn't make scenes in public and you knew Why you couldn't have McDonald's on a weekly basis. These days it's more and more obvious that parents are reluctant to put there foot down. Kids kicking and screaming for sugary snacks in the supermarket, parents letting them eat fast food multiple times a week..etc. I don't know if this is because of the turn our american culture is taking or because people are too wrapped up in their own lives to bother..or both..? I'm not saying beat your kids, but just no where the line is between letting them make their own decisions and run away with the idea that they can get anything they want.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Dion

    And our tax dollars pay the salaries of judges for these ridiculous lawsuits. C'mon!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Deanna

    The parent can always purchase the toy for $1.50 without having to buy a Happy Meal. Buy a salad and an a la carte toy instead.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Jack

    When my kids were younger, I took them to McDonald's plenty of times. Somehow, they accepted "no" for an answer when I told them "no" happy meal or "no" we will not go to McDonald's this time. I suspect this is because they know what "no" means. Consequently, they're much older now. Both are EXCELLENT students and socially well adjusted. Oh.....and they voluntarily eat healthy 95% of the time. There's a myriad of disturbing problems at hand with this issue. It appears this woman and her kids dine at McDonald's so often she feels inclined to sue over an issue like this? Problem one. Why is it so many of these ridiculous suit "topics" seem to come out of California? Do overly sensitive dumb people flock to this state? Or is the gene pool that screwed up there? Problem two. The attorney who took this case validates the two previous questions. In which case, it's likely this lawyer will someday be a politician representing California in Washington. Problem three. I could go on and on. But to get to my point....she's stuck on stupid.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Bango

    I bet you people have some fat kids. McDonalds is part of a bigger problem that teaches people that this type of "food" is "food" when in reality it's greased meat and fried starch. The reason America is so fat is that we haven't been able to intellectualize our biological impulses to consume without end. This impulse made sense when we were hunter-gatherers, but we aren't anymore. Go visit a Wal-Mart or Golden Corral and tell me you have the same opinion

    December 16, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AfghanSoldier

      I've been to Wal-mart and I've been to Golden Corral and I have the same opinion! My guess is that YOU have some really undisciplined self-centered kids! It's always someone elses fault, isn't it? You make me sick!

      December 16, 2010 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
  30. George

    Always someone elses fault .... sounds to me that this mom needs money. These people make me sick

    December 16, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Shane

    Hard to believe such a thing is news worthy

    December 16, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. tata

    You know, she mentions she is sueing because they are getting in to her kids heads without permission. Does this means that all of the parents of overweight kids can sue jenny craig for getting into their kids heads without their permission? Or do we need to give all of these places permission before they start advertising? Mc Donalds has been selling the same food and toys for years, and kids in the older days did not all turn out fat. Why? Because parents weren't all about money. They actually cared about their kids and their kids well-being. Now, parents are worried about giving their kids every thing they can buy instead of have to actually spend time with them. Get off your *** and stop thinking money can buy everything, because it can't!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Wendy

    I agree with Star! Parents need to be parents- they are all to quick to blame schools, McDonald's and whoever else in society for their poor parenting techniques. Children need discipline and guidance, we all ask ourselves why are our children so different then when we were going up? Its because they lack parenting- Say NO- Better yet if its the toy they want and you feel guilty not going to McDonald's because of food choices- just buy the toy and eat at home- Get a back bone

    December 16, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Pat

    This country is "SUE" happy. The lawyers advertise it on TV!! If you have this disease, there must be somebody you can sue. No wonder halth care is so expensive. Lady, Manage your own kids instead of sueing McD's. I was recently in Europe and someone tripped on their uneven sidewalk and the Italian with us, said, "Pick yourself up and move on, we don't sue everyone here like you American do"!!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. I can not parent my kids

    OMG. Rise your kids and stop letting the TV do it for you. Monitor what your kids watch. Get them involved in activities with other kids like sports, clubs, churches, etc. It's OK to say "no" and if they don't eat their healthier meal that you provide, then they will eat it the next day when they get hungry.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. AfghanSoldier

    I don't know about you guys, but I want a happy meal! BTW how far does this slippery slope go? Can networks get sued because their commercials make my kids want to watch cartoons?

    December 16, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Ridiculous

    1. She is the parent. I am a parent, and I am capable of telling my child no.
    2. McDonald's toys can be bought separately for $.99. Obviously since she can't say no, buy just the toy.
    3. This is right up there with the woman who sued McDonald's for spilling HOT coffee on herself. Dirr Dirr.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Edwin

    WHAT A BUNCH OF CRAP!!!! "The company is using unfair techniques to persuade the kids to persuade the parents to go to McDonald's." Last time I checked, a parent was at least 15 years older than the child so BE A PARENT, of course your children are going to want toys but does that mean you always have to give it to them???? How many times are you in the mall and they ask for a toy and you say NO, why is McDonalds any different? Be a parent and stop taking your kids out all the time and cook something, that will take care of Obesity problems in the US faster than suing McDonalds. This is truly a pointless lawsuit and a waste of tax payer money. No Wonder why California is a bankrupt state but it would be the 8th largest economy in the world if it were a country!!!!!!! Companies will use psychology to market to children and adults alike, but it is PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY to 1) Teach our children to ignore it and 2) Continue to enforce the lessons we teach in our lives.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Drew

    I think too many of you 'thinkers' underestimate how many parents are out there who simply can't say "NO!" to their children. Perhaps this is a good thing and it's true, no other industry markets directly to children like fast food, so that does something to kids and their brains.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Edwin

      Why cant a parent say no? They say no when a kid wants toys in the mall, new clothes or shoes but for a happy meal they have to give in?? You have to come up with a better argument than that to say that this lawsuit is necessary.

      December 16, 2010 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
    • Connie

      What is worse for a child's brain is not being educated to make good choices. Proof: it happened to their mother.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:37 | Report abuse |
  40. Commonsensenow

    What a waste of court time and taxpayer's money! Too bad she already had kids....her flawed genetics have been passed on.

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

    This is what is wrong with America today. My daughter could see the Golden Arch's on the interstate two miles away. Be a parent and raise your kid and learn how to say no. We can never have lower cost for anything in this country until we have TORT reform to keep self serving idiots and lawyer idiots from filing these types of lawsuits. I hope she gets a judge that fines HER for wasting tax paper money. The only thing I like about the French is if you file a lawsuit and lose then you pay all costs associated with the lawsuit.

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

    I watch TV alot and most of the commercials are for McCafe not Happy Meals. I have a 19 year old who I use to once and a while take for a Happy Meal. Today he hates McD's he said the food is horrible. I quess I didn't scare him for life by taking him there once and awhile for a Happy Meal. But he also understands the word no. Yes he is an only child and he did not get everything he asked for. He actually had to work for some of his toys, I could have afforded to buy them all for him, but what would he learn if everything is handed to him.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Elvin

    Very interesting. I do agree that they should not give out toys with these meals or atleast give them out when they choose a healthy meal. My question for this lady is Why do you keep taking them to McDonalds if you dont want them to get that sort of meal? Once in a while it's ok but if you know they'll choose the wrong meal just for the toy then just dont take them there...

    December 16, 2010 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. OneBigMacPlease

    This woman must eat at McDonald's A LOT. If it gets harder and harder to say no to them, then they must be eating there regularly...and so doesn't that fly in the face of her thinking McDonald's is such an unhealthy place to eat? I have two kids and they have NEVER ask to go to McDonald's just because of some toy in the meal.
    I love the happy meals...perhaps I should sue Mrs .Monet Parham for the emotional distress this has caused me and for the time I have wasted commenting on it!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LoveHappymeals

      I agree that I enjoy the happy meals. As a senior citizen, I like that I can get a small hamburger, apple dippers, and a drink for a low price. The toy makes great thing to give avay or keep. The calories are low, I believe about 300, especially if you don't eat the caramel dip with the apples and drink a diet drink. If that is all they eat, no between meal snacks, where is the problem. By the way watch most young kids eat, if like my grand kids, they don't even eat all of the meal.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
  45. leah

    the answer is simple. Don't take your kids to McD's in the first place. Nothing is healthy there for anyone. My parents never took me there and i never missed it. Her choice is simple, be a better parent and make better choices. End of story.

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

      the real problem in america is the health nuts.....people should be free to eat what they want be big if they choose too and not let others and media tell them otherwise.

      December 16, 2010 at 09:53 | Report abuse |
  46. MM

    Another lame excuse for a parent. What is the problem why parents can't control their own children and have to come up with these excuses to blame someone for their lack of parenting skills. When I was growing up there were lots of distractions that a kid could ask a parent for but I didn't dare because it was already known that my parents might just whip my a$$ for even knowing the thing exist.

    Parents need to take responsibility and take control of their own lives and their kids lives. Get your kids from in front of the TV and the game boxes that are feeding them worse things than a Happy Meal! Get your kids off the couch and out the door and maybe they would be so fat. Try cooking a good meal and maybe they wouldn't find a Happy Meal so appealing.

    Happy Meals are not designed for everyday meals...it's should be a treat that comes once in a while not even once a week!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. jigar

    these are the kind of people who feels that others are responsible for all their problems.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. BIGDADDYHIBBING

    WHOOO, I THINK I'LL SUE BUDWEISER BECAUSE NOW I WANT A SLEIGH AND A COUPLE OF CLYDESDALES... HOHOHOHO
    I GUESS MOTHER DOESN'T WANT HORSES – JUST A GOLDEN PARACHUTE...HAHAHAHA

    December 16, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Tibet

    Tell your kids no.

    December 16, 2010 at 09:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Alex

    Maybe kick your kids outside rather than let them watch TV all day, then they won't see the commercials and be subjected to the marketing. Some people! Take responsibility for your life and the lives of your kids! Absolutely ridiculous!

    December 16, 2010 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Leave a Reply to Christophe Morone


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.