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. Kinsey

    I sincerely hope that this case is not only thrown out, but that the woman is required to pay McDonald's legal expenses. It is time for people to take responsibility for their own actions AND be taught that being ridiculously litigious will not be tolerated!

    December 31, 2010 at 02:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. damnyank

    i think mcdonalds hires actors/actresses to file flawsuits...
    you know...negative publicity is good publicity...and i doubt any sane/rational human being would come up with this on their own...

    December 31, 2010 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. bdkennedy1

    Funny, I don't recall ever seeing a child drive a car to McDonald's and pay for their own Happy Meal.

    December 31, 2010 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Andrew Nutra

    I bet you my 401K that her kids will continue to get fat even if McDonald's stops putting toys in happy meals.

    January 1, 2011 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve Daouphars

      Lawsuit happy mom isn't exactly a lightweight....I guess she's hooked on Happy Meals too.

      July 23, 2011 at 17:57 | Report abuse |
  5. Nancy

    I don't think that I could handle having to tell my kids "no" all the time either. My solution...I don't have kids...and I love it. Some people just aren't meant to be parents.

    January 1, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Luciano

    The woman and her lawyer should be sued for wasting the court's time and money on this frivolous lawsuit. Read: Lawsuit Abuse!

    January 2, 2011 at 02:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. PAULA

    This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard! First off, who is the parent here? Is it the children? and why are they dictating policy? Second, if one is so weak minded and doesn't want to say NO, the toys can be bought separately. This lawsuit is going nowhere! How frivolous can you get?

    January 3, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. jay lee

    The attorneys who file this lawsuit should be referred to the bar. This woman is failing to exercise her obligations as a parent – she's the ONLY one culpable in this situation; the notion that McDonald's has done anything wrong is a perversion of justice, the kind of whiny nonsense you would expect from a five-year old child.

    January 4, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. CJ

    @Robert Dombroski – I'm not an employee of McDonalds (though several of my friends worked there in high school, but I digress), but I am a PARENT who regularly tells her child no when said child asks to go to McDonalds. I occasionally let her great grandmother take her there as a treat, but it's never something I initiate. I've found that as I've gotten older (I'm 30) my interest in eating most fast food has simply diminished. In high school and college I ate a lot more of it. Now I can barely stand the thought of eating most of it, unless I'm in a very rare mood. I'm tired of parents who refuse to be parents. It is very possible to tell your child no – it's not like McDonalds shows up at your door and delivers the food, or sends a car to pick up the kid and take them if you refuse to go. You have to physically get in the car and drive there, or walk there, etc. It's the same thing with any sort of junk food – if you don't want your child to have it, keep it out of the house. I only grocery shop now when my daughter is at school so I can avoid being pestered to buy three extra things we don't need every aisle. She doesn't ask for them at home, and she doesn't notice that I don't buy them. She's five, so she can't drive to the store and buy them herself.

    January 4, 2011 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KATHY

      i agree some of these parents aren't parents because they are to worried about trying to be best buddies with their kids. It is a difference between having a great relationship with your child rather than trying to be your child's friend. And if this parents is having trouble saying no to a toy i feel bad for what comes next with her children.

      May 8, 2012 at 08:49 | Report abuse |
  10. jlovejo

    gee what's next, suing toy companies, because they have commercials on TV, that kids are watching. If she is so concerned about the food, why is she taking her children to McDonald's ... and why McDonalds – all fast food restaurants have 'toys' in the kid meals, seems like someone is greedy and doesn't she know, if it's the toy the kids wants, McDonalds will sell you just the toy, usually cheaper than the Happy Meal cost.

    January 5, 2011 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Gigi

    I agree with star. How frivolous suit. Just say no to the kid.Reminds me of lawsit yrs ago. Man tried to sue MC D as he developed heart disease from eating their high fat meals. As if they forced him to eat it.

    January 5, 2011 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Bill

    What a crock! If she really cared about her kids she would turn off the TV!

    No TV = no commercials = no whining for happy meals!

    January 7, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Theresa

    This is just dumb and a waste of time for the court and for me reading this article! Really?! Seriously?! I must be getting old to say this but "what is this world coming too?"!

    January 7, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. jj smith

    This woman should go to jail due to being to stupid to walk the streets!

    January 8, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. CT

    What an idiot and a waste of tax dollars!

    #1...If you didn't take your your kids to McDonald's in the first place, they wouldn't be asking for the Happy Meals.
    #2...Get a backbone and tell your kids "NO".
    #3...Why am I wasting time on this????

    January 8, 2011 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Lisa

    YOU CAN BUY THE TOY WITHOUT THE MEAL! Every new promotion just get a couple toys and stash them.
    Offer to give the toy to your child as a reward for eating what you choose for the week. Win-win.

    January 10, 2011 at 05:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. John Que 3000

    If she doesn't like the food she does not have to buy it.
    What a worthless law suit, I hope they make her pay court and legal cost when she loses..

    January 10, 2011 at 08:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Eric

    Good lord, can the woman not say "No"? Part of being a parent means making choices for your kids and being the one in charge.

    January 10, 2011 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Brittany

    I 100% agree with what Star said. I have four kids my hsuband and myself probably get our kids Mcdonalds 3 times a year if that... It just another ridiculous lawsuit a house mom wants sue out of boredom.. Its ok to tell your kids no its absolutely ridiculous the stupid thing people sue over.... is this woman gonna sue toy stores for advertising toys on the t.v. next learn how to tell your kids no and maybe this lawsuit would not be filed right now.... come on get with it and stop making these dumb lawsuits cause your bored... I think she forgot to sue burger king and wendy's too and wherever else that gives out toys with kids meal... Heres an idea stop taking your kids to Mcdonalds and you wouldn't have that problem with you children...

    January 10, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. 5 cents

    Saying no or not going to McDonald's won't hurt...I promise.

    January 10, 2011 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. CaroleJerauld

    I think I'll sue Toys R Us for making my kids want toys...because I don't want to say "no" to my own children.
    And hey, there could be some $ in it for me. I could really cash in on this!

    January 10, 2011 at 18:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Lori

    Guess what? Kids ask for things all the time and parents say "No." "Can I have a BB Gun, Mom?" "Can I have this expensive video game?" "Can we stop at McDonald's for dinner?" And is this woman so clueless that she doesn't realize you can buy the toy without buying any food at McDonald's? My local McDonald's sells the toy for $1 and I buy the toys for a special treat for my kids, just like buying the occasional comic book or trendy article of clothing. But I guess my kids aren't like hers – they never hounded me for McDonald's, or anything else, because they were never made to feel like food was taboo or some battle ground. My kids are growing up to be reasonable people because I was reasonable with them growing up – "The video game is too expensive," "We have dinner waiting at home," and "You're too young for a BB gun," are acceptable things to say to a kid, and they grow up understanding that we don't always get what we want and that the parents make those decisions until we are grown up.

    By the way, lady, McDonald's offers milk and apple slices with Happy Meals, and the occasional hamburger won't kill your kids, any more than saying "No" and listening to them while will kill you.

    January 11, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Debbie

    Solution, don't take your family to McDonalds. Take them to get a "grass" shake.

    January 12, 2011 at 08:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Bllly

    This woman is retarted she needs to get a life she can just say no to her children if they say they want mcdonalds

    January 13, 2011 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. el fabuloso

    Child services need to investigate this woman to assess if she is fit to be a parent. For the child's welfare maybe the child needs to be taken out of an environment where a parent could be improperly feeding her because the mother is unable to set boundaries.

    January 13, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. David

    Maybe I should sue the Pepsi company for my addiction to Dr. Pepper... Yeah that's and idea! I can't afford to go to a Dentist and get my teeth fixed from drinking it all the time... Any lawyers out there that want to capitalize on this, send me a Message at Davyou5@aol.com.

    January 13, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Stevan King

    Some people are so stupid, and take things way too far. If you can't say no to your children then you need to rethink your parenting techniques. Don't blame someone else, especially a corporation that has been around as long as McDonalds. Take responsibility for your bad parenting!

    January 24, 2011 at 23:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. tsaunders

    How ridiculous, what kind of a message are we sending the american public about suing companies. If she really knew what she were talking about they do give the option of apple dippers versus fries, they offer milk instead of soda, they made the mcnuggetrs 100% white meat, what more does she want, for them to serve salads as a kids meal, I'm quite sure they wouldnt sell to many. If we dont stop these ridiculous law suits tying up our court systems, who knows what they willl come up with next!

    January 24, 2011 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Cam

    I wonder who is paying for this lawsuit because I sure hope it's not the taxpayer!!!!!!!! She has a right to say what she wants.. but Mc Donalds has a right to serve what they want and they have made some better changes over the last few years. She should be more of an authority figure in her home that when she says "no" it means "no". Next it will be candy stores because they market completely to children! And what about Halloween? Candy, candy and more candy not to mention all the scary costumes? Come one now this is getting so rediculous what will be next!?????! Why can't she just order her child a salad and purchase the happymeal toy like most normal parents in her position would? Life can be so simple without all of this chaos. I believe everything that goes around will surely come back around. This frivolous lawsuit will not stand. Even the child interviewed said No when asked if she would still get the happy meal without the toy! That says it all!!!!

    January 25, 2011 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. CheifsTwins

    I want to sue this woman for trying to take away my McD's Happy Meal Toy! JUST SAY NO!

    January 25, 2011 at 00:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lisa

      amen to that! i say class action on her!

      January 25, 2011 at 10:09 | Report abuse |
    • bmjnlc70

      ya i have three kids and 2out of the 3 still eat happy meals so what sometimes i say no sometimes yes if i feel the need to do so who is the parent and who is the child ?? she has no case but another crazy person suing a fast food restraunt. I have an idea why doesnt she not go there anymore.

      April 12, 2011 at 10:26 | Report abuse |
  31. Robin

    if this lady lets her kids watch tv she is allowing McDonalds into the heads of her children...Lady if you dont like what they see on tv turn it off and engage them in a activity. My grand kids dont ask over and over heck they dont even ask, but enjoy it when we go and they even pick the healthy choices 🙂 ...learn to say no and stick to it. Get some parenting classes and engage yourself there and learn something. If you dont like the toy and the food dont go there. Everything in moderation. Lady this is all on you your are directly to blame.

    January 25, 2011 at 00:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Lisa

    i think that it is so stupid to sue a company like that, all you have to do is not buy the food. there are many reasons for someone being fat.... you can't prove that the food made you fat, it could be genetics. people like that are what is making the good companies go under and close. and if you can't go out and get food like that a a fast food joint or regular restaurant, then most people will cook like that or worse at home, so what shall they do?! sue themselves!! people sue over anything... and if i were the judge those stupid cases would be thrown out of court!

    January 25, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Southern-Belle

    This lawsuit is crazy...you are the parent, you have authority to what your kids eat and don't eat. If you don't want them eating McDonalds, then it is YOUR responsiblility to say NO! For an organization to actually back this stupid lawsuit they need to be shut down themselves...

    January 26, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Shea

    Seriously? You are suing McDonalds because the toys in the happy meals are the reason your children are whiney little monsters? And do you really think this will control the morbid obesity problem in America? No. At least happy meals provide a child with a small portion. They'll be supersizing along with their obese parents before long without the incentive of a toy. There would be no McDonalds, sonic, long john silver or taco bell on EVERY corner if America did not demand to eat this way. The problem goes much deeper than a toy. It is the lack of discipline and self control that makes this country, not only fat, but broke! But, regarding the issue at hand, it is SAD when McDonalds is taking the blame for parents not being able to make good decisions for their children!

    January 26, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Yolanda Weiner

    I take my kids to mikky dees everday and twice on Sunday. Dim happy meals keep em quiet and outa my hair for hours.

    January 26, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. smh

    she just wants money...this is about money it has nothing to do with the toys, the kids, or anything else she wants money

    January 27, 2011 at 00:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Jack

    God forbid this woman ever hears about Toys R' Us or even Chuck E Cheez, kids won't be able to have any fun when she's doen with her lawsuits

    January 30, 2011 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. yankeefan

    I'm 34, and I grew up watchin commercials for McDonalds ofcourse my sisters and I always wanted the new toy that came in the happy meal, but I guess it's lucky for me I had a real mom, who knew how to be a parent. I have two children of my own now and yes they ask me if we can go to McDonalds atleast once a week and I am one of the few people that is proud to say I am just like my mom. I have absolutely no problem saying no to my kids, and GUESS WHAT? THEY ARE STILL ALIVE!!!!! When they were toddlers, yeah they would get upset and cry because I wouldn't take them but I stood my ground, and once they realized I wasn't going to give in they stopped. My kids know they are not always going to get what they want and thats just a fact of life. In my opinion that's one of the problems with society today, people spoil their kids and then they wonder why they have tantrums. I love children but I can't stand parents who have no idea how to control them, this womans children are clearly spoiled. Is she going to sue grocery stores next because they have candy at the checkout counter, and her kid is having a fit. She's a moron and her kids are going to grow up to be spoiled obese brats, and it's going to be all her fault, NOT MCDONALDS!!!!!!

    April 12, 2011 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 16, 2011 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. busy mom

    wow...i take my niece to mcdonalds for ice cream about once a month and I BUY HER A TOY NOT THE KIDS MEAL. you can have one without the other you know...this nation is way to sue happy when it comes to fast food

    July 23, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. charlotte

    your the one who takes them to get the happy meals so its your fault if they want them all the time, so i dont think you should be suing when your the one who's made them want happy meals.

    January 14, 2012 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Katie

    I am disappointed to see so many insults directed at so many groups of people. On this list of comments I have seen house moms insulted, the phrase ghetto CA white trash, the phrase "fat mommies", anyone who lets their kids watch t.v. or gives their kid fast food sometimes.

    Comment after comment people call this woman stupid or "retarted" yea, ironic spelling, lol, and then talk about their own parenting as if they need to reassure themselves that this is the prime example of bad parenting and they on the other hand are doing great.

    This whole comment thread is hateful. I don't disagree, the woman is being foolish by trying to sue McDonalds. And thats all I have to say about her. Or anyone else. Take a step back, and stop with the negativity. This world needs more positive things said and less hate.

    March 12, 2012 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. R-Evolution TV

    It is unbelievable what is happening to such an otherwise beautiful country! take responsibility for your own life and actions people! wake up and smell the herbal tea! Don't go to McD and your kids won't wine! No is No! they have to learn how to deal with disappointment some day. What's next? suing the ice cream shop because of possible brain damage from "brain freeze"

    April 6, 2012 at 06:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. chris

    .......really? if thats the case im going to go sue wallmart because they have a toy isle they are clearly trying to get our kids to want stuff making us say no to them and in the end it will probable destroy there lives because there not spoiled we need to shutdown all the gaming companies to this way our kids won't want anything so we dont't have to upset them

    April 27, 2012 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. wendy

    Hey what about places like Chucky Cheese!!! We have more than McDonalds to sue!!!! LOL

    June 5, 2012 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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  47. Lisa

    I dont think Mcdonalds at fault and this is so stupid. Parents have just gotten lazy. They dont take thier kids to mcdonalds and buy them a happy meal because they are screaming about a toy. They do it because most parents now a days are too lazy to cook food for them. They take the easy road out and to mcdonalds we go. I am sorry but I buy my son happy meals on occasion and I mostly cook for him at home. He asks to go to mcdonalds a hundered times a day I say NO and he drops it for a while till we pass another one later that day. I am the parent and Mcdonalds has no influence over when and how often i go to mcdonalds. Why should they be held accountable for this when they have been doing it for a long time already. Why shouldnt we just be the ones that change the way we are such a fast paced society and no one has time for good old fashioned sit down family meals. Mcdonalds are not making are kids OBESE! WE ARE!!!!!!!!! Then we wonder why more kids and more of us get early heart attacks or diabetes.....

    September 4, 2012 at 01:04 | Report abuse | Reply
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