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. D

    This "mother" is just another loser trying to make a quick buck off of a company that is doing nothing wrong. She needs to grow up and just tell her kids "no". Perhaps some parenting classes might benefit her. As is, it sounds like she isn't qualified to be a mother if she can't handle the begging and whining of kids. Yes, they are cute and cuddly, but the begging and whining is a part of the package...and if she gets her way with McDonalds, what's her next target? Maybe she can sue and make Apple stop selling IPhones, IPods, and Ipads because the kids are begging for those...As Bugs Bunny would say "What a marroon!"

    December 16, 2010 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Ritu

    My daughter loves fresh fruits, salds and vegetables. We typically end up going to McDonals maybe once in two weeks. However the ONLY reason she insists to go to McDonalds is for the toy. In Sweden, Happy meal come with a choice of only Hamburger or Chicken nuggets. My daugher dose not like either of this, but just for the sake of the toy we have to buy the Happy Meal. I also separately buy her the chicken burger, but its clear to me that the main attraction is the toy!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Steph H.

    Seriously??? Now I have heard it all! How do her kids' heads get filled with the messages from McDonald's? Either they see the ads on TV or the kids visit the restaurant with their parents, both of which are the doing of this same mother. Get a clue lady! McDonald's is not able to do this without your permission – you give them permission to reach your kids minds every time you let your kids watch TV or you take them there to eat. Or, here's a novel concept – say NO and mean it. You ARE the parent, right?

    December 16, 2010 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. areyouserious

    Crap. Beyond crap. I remember always wanting McDonald's when I was a kid, I would ask a couple times a week. My mom said NO, as many times as she had to and I turned out normal enough. Look at TV stations for kids, all of the commercials that are played are toys or foods geared towards children. I am sure they ask for that one toy that they want over and over again, I know mine do. I am not one of those parents that says yes that my child asks for and for the most part they get. Do they still ask, of course! They are kids! I feel as though it is up to the parents to teach children about moderation and why they can't have everything they want.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Uncle Festivus

    Mom and dad should be charged with child endangerment for taking kids to eat fast food. It is simply a wonder we don't have 100% of kids croaking at 20 years old from the diet they have now.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jen

    I remember going to McD's early some days to get baby beannie babies. Were my kids old enough to influence where I went and where I spent my money let alone what they ate – nope. We called all of it "sometimes foods" and they were not standard fare. Good luck having them pay for your kids therapy for such a passive parent. Parent is the key word here, you should have acted as one.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. mplaya

    "...McDonald's is getting into my kids' heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat."

    OH PLEASE!!! How about you stop being an ignorant mother, BE THE PARENT and get it "into your kids heads" that you will get McD's as a special treat, say once a month.

    Then perhaps be sterilized so you will no longer have the kids you can't control.

    Step up to the plate, lady.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Derek

    Of course they are going to want the toys, what kid wouldn't? She is worried that they are controlling what her kids want to eat? Kids meals come in a couple of different variations for kids to chose from. What was she planning on them getting at McDonalds that is so much better? I have three kids of my own, two 5 year olds and a 3 year old. When I take them to McDonalds I know they are going to want a happy meal. If I don't feel like paying for a happy meal or feel that my kids have been eating to out much. I stay home and cook (or try.) What is next, are we going to sue General Mills because Trix cereal has a bunny on the front and appeals to kids? This is ridiculous to say the least. Learn how to take care of your kids and if you can’t, STAY HOME! I happen to like that they get a toy. I use it to get my kids to eat all of their food.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. 1jdl

    to many parents out there who is trying to blame McDonalds for nothing should be at home cooking for their kids and maybe they will be eating right. it is not the fast food places fault it is bad parenting.when you realize it is not the companies fault and it is you , you can teach your child how to take care of theirs when they grow up.how many of you feed your kids vegetables,probably not many.....

    December 16, 2010 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. MM

    Parents, if you can't say NO to a stupid .99 toy how will you say NO to drugs and alcohol?

    If you think Happy Meals are bad...wait until your kids wind up in drug rehab because you couldn't tell them no.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Teresa Long-Blevins

      Or worse-standing at your door with several very small screaming kids in tow and pregnant again, and with HIV.

      December 16, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse |
  11. SomComnSnse

    If this lady can't control what her kids now, then how does she expect to have any influence in their lives as they get older. All I have to say is I hope no one ever offers them any drugs because it is apparent that their mother can't teach them how to say NO.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Tina Adams

    This is what is wrong with the country today, don't give your kids fast food they will not know what they are missing. I mean come on there is not that much advertizing of toys in happy meals!!!!!!!!!! We are responsible for our children in every way we teach them right from wrong, good from bad and we set the tables that feed them. Let them know who is the parent and just say NO and move on.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. zort narf

    i'm always bothering my wife to get me some beer. right now i'm on a samuel adams kick.
    my wife will register a suit against the dusty corpse of one of our founding forefathers.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zort narf

      actually, my kid is bothering her for beer too. where, oh where, did i go wrong?
      oh yeah, it all started with the happy meals.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:22 | Report abuse |
  14. Tevii

    Lawsuits like this cripple the country in more ways than one? They tie up resources and if they are successful they show people its ok to act that way and in turn cause companies to take measures that negatively effect everyone.

    Try being a parent lady and stop expecting everyone and everything else around you to raise your children.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Brian

    Wow, i am amazed that this woman is allowed to have children. It seems stupidity rules in this so called Greatest Nation on Earth. Can you believe it, another parent who thinks it is not their responsibility to educate their children.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mark

    Suing McDonald's is not the problem woman. The main problem is you're watching too much TV. I'm not sure my kids (8 and 11) even remember what a Happy Meal is. Our family stopped watching regular TV about 4 years ago. We are not subjected to the endless commercials and poor programming. I suggest you put in a DVD and leave the commercials behind.

    Sometimes, ignorance truly is bliss.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. MM

    Must be time for me to open a Happy Meal Rehab! As soon as she gets the settlement from the law suit I'll admit the kids...and her. I'll make sure she learns how to cook before she can leave rehab.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. guest

    Really?????? It never ceases to amaze me how little responsibility people want to take for their own actions. You're a parent. Act like one. Don't sue because you're afraid that your son or daughter is going to be mad at you for saying no or because you simply don't want to put up with the incessant whining the kids do. Welcome to the world of being a parent. How about teaching your children the values of moderation and discipline? And, learn how to handle with the inevitable tantrum that every parent deals with when their children don't get what they want. It's like parents who blame the media for their kids being exposed to many things before their old enough. Shut the freakin TV or the radio off and actually talk to your kids about why you did it. And if that doesn't work, a good old-fashioned "because I said so" works wonders. You don't want your kids to eat McDonald's? Then cook at home more often instead of taking the easy way out. In my household, dining out is a treat for all of us, not a way of life. And before people go there, I'm a full time lawyer and mom. It can be done people. And, as a lawyer, I'm offended by the attorneys here who decided to take this case. But I guess I'm a rarity among attorneys.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Amanda

    This is abusrd. Really, sometimes as the parent you have to be the bad guy and say no. It's our responsibility as parentsfor ud to say well gee Johnny you had a hamburger for dinner the other day mabye you should eat some grilled chicken or fish or mabye heaven forbid a vegetarian meal. As a parent you have to teach them how to make healthy choices.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Baron

    to Uncle Festivus: Its called moderation and parenting. 2 things most people lack these days and expect "others" to do their job for them. Lazy sniveling parents who raise their children coddled and polished to be "P.C" and to look at yourself in the mirror and say its ok to be a fat pig. Its like this retarded Obama bill to feed children 3 meals a day because the parents cant be TASKED WITH THE JOB???

    December 16, 2010 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. MM

    She is nothing more than one big fat LAZY parent who refuse to cook for her kids. The government should sue her for child endangerment.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Stacey

    I agree. Adam you are exactly right. If she doesn't want her kids eating at McDonald's then don't take them there.

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

    .....and I would ike to add.....if McDonald's pays one cent to this lady or lawyer even if to quietly settle out of court....they're stuck on stupid too!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Wow

    Here is the actual copy of the lawsuit http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/mcdonald_scomplaint.pdf

    December 16, 2010 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Bill

    Dear American Court system: Please throw this woman and her frivolous waste of time out of your court and maybe some fries to go with that....C'mon lady!!! What's next? Sue Apple because your kids want iPads? Sue the Phone companies because your kids want cell phones? Sue Mattel, Hasbro and other toy companies because your kids want what they've seen on the TV shows that you haven't bothered to censor? Shame, shame, shame on you!!!!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J.

      A judge should be able to fine the law firm for wasting the tax payers time and money for even listening to this complaint.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:46 | Report abuse |
  26. JoAnn

    I would have more respect for this woman if she was suing on behalf of those assembling the toys and protesting their poor work enviornment. The last thing I want is yet ANOTHER government regulation telling me what I can and or can not do. Grow a pair lady!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. blindfaith

    grow some balls! if your statement were true adv. would be outlawed. no more bmw car adds, no more jeans adv. , no more... become a parent and while you do that grow up yourself.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Jeepers

    Well, so far I've been called 3 names by three different people...not including "health nut." You know what? That's when you know you've won an argument...when the best someone can come up with is childish name-calling. That was easy.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Roger

    I'm not a marketing major, or an economics guru... but how do you market to non-consumers? Children do not have jobs. Children do not have money. Children do not buy anything. Those children's father should be suing their mother for buying his kids unhealthy food too often.

    If I were the judge hearing this case, I would fine her the cost of McDonald's attorney's fees, plus the cost of every Happy Meal that she estimates that she has bought for her children in the past year–as a reminder that it's her choice, as the consumer... and the parent, not her children's!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. ART

    I hope a judge throws this ridiculous lawsuit out and fines this moron who should not be allowed to breed for wasting the courts time.One has to wonder who runs this idiot womans household, you are the parent take some responsibility,I pray for the future of those poor children with such an irrisponsible mother.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Paul

    You mean to tell me that people still have not figured out that we are just fodder for corporate America all they want is your money all you have to do is be more careful at where you shop and so forth if your kids want nuggets or a burger you can get nuggets at a store or make your own burger red meat is not as healthy as they say it is theres garden burger and a host of other vegi burgers or again you can make your own just search the inter net with your fav SE

    December 16, 2010 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. the Wash

    It's her own fault for taking her kids to that junk store in the first place. Besides that, I'm pretty sure you can just get the toy by itself for a buck or two.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. AfghanSoldier

    I'm gonna sue the Army....their commercials made me want to "be all that you can be" and now I'm in Afghanistan.....WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jack

      hilarious. And thank you for your service to our country. Merry Christmas to you.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:40 | Report abuse |
    • JBC

      You have me laughing my ass off from halfway around the world! Thank you and God bless you and your work!

      December 16, 2010 at 10:46 | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      @jack: You said "Merry Christmas." I think I'll sue.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:52 | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      and while you're at it....why don't you sue JBC for saying "God".

      December 16, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse |
  34. Bill

    This is such BS. Maybe DSS should take her kids since she is totally incapable of say no. What happens if they want guns for Christmas and shoot up the neighborhood. Yes...both are just as rediculous

    December 16, 2010 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Mike

    Most comments are missing the point of this issue. The "Mothter" listed in this suit in only one class member. The Lawyer must file using ONE representative class member to initiate the Class Action. The only real person that will make money here is the Law Firm representing the Lawyer. The Lawyer will win in two respects 1. Legal Fees charged against the Class if there is a favorable ruling and 2. Recognition of the Law Firm name (which can lead to other business). I believe legal issues like this make a poor statement against our legal system and are an abuse of the process. This firm could win based on some technicallity of the Law in the state of California. Proceeds of any litigation would first pay the Lawyer, then be distributed to all members of the Class. What I would like to know is, how is this law firm going to solicite members to fill the class. Is everyone in CA being offered a class status? This is a waste of our court system.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J.

      They are doing it with a promise of a big pay day without realizing that all they will get is about 50 cents.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:44 | Report abuse |
  36. John

    What kills me is the assumption that McDonalds is unhealthy. People complain about it and are not informed. For instance it's 100% pure beef nothing added. They use real lettuce tomato real mustard and ketchup.. the buns are baked the same way every one else.... real Muffins real biscuits. real bagels Real eggs... any thing that is processed is not much different then that you can buy at the grocery store. I toured serveral places that Mcdonald's get it's product from..... the one that surprised me the most was the meat packing plant.....I was shocked... on how Clean this place was.... I watched the entire process from start to finish... it was very informative.. and Clean... The person guiding my tour said That McDonalds is very Food Safety Oriented and that the safety of their food starts from where it's grown and continues until it ends up on the customers tray. People think nothing of gorging themselves with a 5000 calorie of home cooked meal... and then complain about 1200 at a fast food restaurant. a person at a fast food restaurant is less like to gorge themselves due to the cost... Eat 3 hamburgers and potato salad and few sugary drink and then hide it under the guise that it is home cooked and better for you.... she is attacking the toys as a means because the attack on the food is a not as simple. I bet if you opened this womans fridge and cupboards you would find processed foods up the wazoo. My daughters love the nuggets fries and choc milk.. they get apple slices and the toy as a reward for eating it all. and this is infrequent meant as a reward for good behaviour. The answer: anything and everything in Moderation.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Boss

      You're right about people not accurately evaluating what is healthy and what isn't. People order salads all the time and think they're being healthy when in reality some of those salads are super high in calories due to dressing and random ingredients. Try going to TGIF or a similar place and eating anything that isn't high in calories. All the creamy pastas are killers and each plate is close to 1000 calories. You could have a McDonald's burger and fries and still eat less calories than that.

      December 16, 2010 at 11:12 | Report abuse |
  37. Tony

    I would only direct you here: http://www.cspiscam.com

    December 16, 2010 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. David

    if she wins you can say goodbye to those "colorful condoms" advertised to kids as the answer to std's and pregnancy

    December 16, 2010 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Debbie McGee

    Does this clueless woman ever allow her children to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings??? Maybe this has escaped her attention, but the advertisers are shooting new and better toys, video games, cereals, snacks, etc...at them the entire morning. Guess what? Getting your children's attention and making them want what they are selling is their purpose. Probably 1/2 of everything kids are asking for, for Christmas they saw advertised on television. Sounds to me that this woman is after a fast buck. "You are suing b/c you have to tell your kids "no" and you feel guilty?????" Sounds like some therapy for mom is welcomed! McDonald's doesn't have a gun to your head. Tell your children that you're going elsewhere to eat, or eat at home. FEEL GUILTY????? Sheeeezzzzzz!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Julie

      You have got to be f-ing kidding me!!! Suing McDonalds because she doesn't have the balls to say no to her kids?!?! How many years has McD's had Happy Meals, and how many years have those Happy Meals had toys? This is not a bad thing! The bad thing is the dumb-a$$ parents who can't say no to their kids, so they end up eating the stuff every day, blowing up like balloons, and having heart attacks at the age of 30!!! Unbelievable!

      December 16, 2010 at 11:02 | Report abuse |
  40. Jasmine


    December 16, 2010 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. DeWayne

    Maybe I should sue a beer store for putting top shelf cognac at my eye level its the most expensive.Same concept,how stupid and can people be.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. PatrickWhoLovesToys

    Shame on this woman. McDonald's should counter-sue this woman for being a bad parent. If a restaurant has more authority over your children than you do...than it's your fault and problem, not the restaurant. How about you get off your butt and discipline. Hilarious.

    December 16, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Pam Miller

    I'm a parent and grandparent and you know who makes the decisions about what my kids eat? I do!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. JBC

    I have an idea...take that money that you are paying your attorney, go to the dollar store and buy a few hundred small toys (similar to what is in the Happy Meal) and give them to your children every once in a while when the finish a plate of fresh vegetables and some grilled fish. Just a thought...

    December 16, 2010 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Ivan

    I guess this woman is black. Does anybody know?

    December 16, 2010 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Cavinka

    Such a mother! Why doesn´t she make the food herself to her kids instead of eating Happy Meal?

    December 16, 2010 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Thundercrunk

    wow what an unbelievable stupid lady. GET A GRIP ON YOURSELF AND YOUR KIDS FOR GOD'S SAKE!!!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. J.

    You have got to be kidding me...It is not McD's job to raise your kids. So what you have to 'Say No' How is that their fault? What are you going to do next, so movie companies when you have to say no I can't take you to that movie? Sue your employers for not paying you enough so they aren't deprived of the latest X-Box game? McD's should counter sue on the grounds that this woman is stupid!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Robin

    I am a parent of two boys and i do purchase the toys at McDonald's, Burger King, etc on occasion. But, all consumers have the option to purchase the toy without the food! Amazing, I know. I teach my kids that fast food is unhealthy and they should not eat it. I allow them to enjoy the toys (they are pretty neat) without hurting their health. As a parent we must protect our children and teach them to make wise and healthy choices!

    December 16, 2010 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Go Auburn


    December 16, 2010 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
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