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 (1,383 Responses)
  1. Gery

    fyi...you can buy the toys....without having to buy the meals...duh!

    December 15, 2010 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. MS

    Hey lady if you don't like Happy Meals there is a simple solution Tell your kids no when they ask for them

    December 15, 2010 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. shasta

    this is crazy....can we sue sketchers for showing kids who can jump super high in their shoes/?? my kids want them just because they think it will make them sling shot like the kids on tv...if they start a lawsuit like this who knows where it will end up!!

    December 15, 2010 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Mike

    Here's a new word for you lady that might make parenting easier: "No."

    December 15, 2010 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. johninmemphis

    Absolutely insane.
    Wimpy whiney wusses that can't parent and the impish groups that are breaking this country.
    I cannot fathom how these turds stand up without a backbone.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Rvenger

    Going to sue the television network for airing the ads? Going to sue the newspaper for it's full-page glossies? Going to sue the post office for delivering it's version of SPAM?

    My Mom used to tell me to eat what's on my plate or go to bed hungry. Mama Parham ought to try it sometime.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Andrea M

    Don't like Happy Meals? Then don't feed them to your kid. End of story.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. mattO

    I think I'm going to sue Mc Donalds for making my soda to cold.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Silly

    You got to be kidding me! If this goes forward I am suing every grocery store in California for not relocating the candy section from the checkout! "We have to say no to our kids so much and McDonalds makes it so much harder." Oh Please! It is called being a PARENT! Guess what Parham...You have to say no and give reasons! Don't put the blame on someone else! Do your job! This is crazy! Only in California! No wonder the rest of our great nation think Californians are "air heads"! Thanks Parham for making us look good!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. the_dude

    I'll bet $100 that this "concerned" mother is some sort of activist. Also, I bet she is the "I don't need a man" type of single mother.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Judge

    Doesn't anyone these days take responsibility for themselves or their families? Unbelievable.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lee

    McDonalds have been serving happy meals for years and this is just now an issue? If you don't like the happy meals and you can't control your children go elsewhere to eat. People will sue anything for a buck these days.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. truetuft

    To all the McDonalds lobbyists who are on here berating this mother, I want to re-direct attention that the woman is suing with the backing of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. This group is against the obscene marketing of product directly to children. It's not just about Happy Meals. It's about relentless, inappropriate marketing campaigns targeted to children who can't make healthy choices for themselves. These marketing companies are undermining parental authority by tempting children to eat highly processed, junk food.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MS

      We're berating this woman because she has a severe mental deficiency. Marketing only goes so far. Parents ultimately decide what their kids get and from where. Your kid isn't fat because of Ronald McDonald or Happy Meals. Your kid is fat because you fed him Happy Meals every day and didn't bother to send him outside to exercise.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:09 | Report abuse |
    • johninmemphis

      The coffee lawsuit was indeed frivolous.
      Any idiot knows not to put a cup of hot coffee between your fat thighs in the car while you're trying to drive.
      It's called personal responsibility.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse |
    • OnePlatypus

      See my other post...Beanie Babies, Tickle me Elmo, Cabage Patch Kids, or things more recent like Apple's Iphone or Toyota Pruis...I believe adults get in fights over these 'must have' toys on this little list...It is called Marketing, all companies, religions, and governments do it. My Uncle changed churches and now tells me and my saintly grandparents that we are going to Hell as we do not believe exactly as he does. This is a form of marketing, do not kid yourself. Quite frankly I think I have more right to sue the church for tearing apart a happy family than this lady has for her kid wanting a toy and her not being able to say no. (personally I choose just to debate my uncle and tell him no; not sue as most normal people do.)

      Also...I read the news...Work out every day...stay heathy...I am educated...and.....I have never heard of the center for Public whatever...I can name my lobbiest group whatever too. I have however heard of the FDA and the CDC...funny they did not sign on to this lawsuit.

      December 16, 2010 at 13:19 | Report abuse |
    • Monet Parham-Lee

      Yes, thank you! The CPSI is the one force acting for what is right in the world. People who disagree with us must be backed by Exxon and BP (Bigger Polluters).

      December 17, 2010 at 11:22 | Report abuse |
  14. allison

    "Neither does Coca Cola or Pepsi." What?!?!? You have got to be joking! The Polar bears??? Santa???? They go straight for kids too!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Eric

    Look up the McDonalds coffee lawsuit again. The coffee caused 3rd degree burns to 95% of her genitals after spilling on her causing permanent scaring and permanent damage. The burns were caused within 3 seconds of contact. That lawsuit WAS NOT frivolous. McDonalds kept coffee that hot so that they could get more coffee out of each bean to make more money. Think and do research before you pretend like you know what you are talking about.

    AND this is just a lawsuit that was plead it does not mean that the court will accept it OR classify it as a class action. Anyone can plead a stupid lawsuit it doesnt mean it will go anywhere! Calm down people!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Carlo

    This mother should exercise her rights as a parent and NOT go to McDonald's if she's concerned about the meal.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Anne

    Lets see: say NO to your children, explain the McD food is fattening and tell them that fat kids have no friends; and if she always says yes to them they will just be fat little meatballs with a bunch of crappy toys and no friends. Or better yet, take control of you kids and STOP CAVING!!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. happy

    all the mother or the father has to do is just say "no", how hard is that??? children need to learn that they can't get everything they want. you are the parent-be strong! or just feed them at home! look at the money and the aggravation you would save!!!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Garry

    Oh my GOD!! Will people just grow up. Life is all about choices. Some are good, some are bad, but in the end everyone can make their own choice. If people choose to buy Happy Meals for their children that is their business. Parents buy food for their children, not the other way around. If you don't want your children to have it, fine, but don't make it a personal crusade to take things away from everyone else.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Rushine

    As bad as it is Obama's wife is not helping matters any. Parents have the children and theirs to raise!!! She might be in luck to get some pointers from the women that sued McDonalds about the hot coffee suit!!!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. nate

    Who raises this lady's children? Her or Ronald McDonald? I can't beleive people like this are allowed to have kids.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Kiara

    she is crazy!! just don't bye your children happy meal; it shouldn't be hard to say no to your children, i mean come on what kind of parent are you. if you don't want your children to ask for happy meals then don't take them to McD's plain and simple.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Taffy

    So.. Just because this person can't say no to her children, she is going to try to make MY children suffer for it?!?!?! A Happy Meal is a treat for my children when they are very well behaved or achieve a big accomplishment. If I don't want to buy them one I won't. I hold the wallet, my children do not. And I will shamelessly admit...I LIKE THE TOYS TOO!!!!!!!!!!!! And McDonalds does give the option to buy the toy without purchasing the meal... So that solves the "Happy Meal toys are bad for my kids health" problem!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Doug Hodges

    BOOO HOOO ...you have to say no to ypur kids WHO GIVES A CRAP anothewr USLESS LAWSUIT thanks for driving up the cost of insurance MORON

    December 15, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Lobotomy Jones

    I would like to see jail time for frivolous lawsuits.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Dennis Hrmilton

    All you chest beaters should spend one Saturday morning in front of your TV, and watch how pervasive these ads for McDonald's happy meals are during children's programming. You will be SURPRISED to say the least.
    It's a lot like the method that hate radio star, Rush Limbaugh uses in his daily four hour indoctrinations. Repeat repeat repeat. And soon whatever is said is real..To the listeners.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MS

      I am no fan of Rush Limbaugh but it seems to me that there is a simple solution if he is on. TURN HIM OFF. If the ads bother you so much then turn off the TV while they're on. If McDonald's food offends you so much tell your kids no when they ask you for it. Parenting means you have to be the bad guy sometimes.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:14 | Report abuse |
    • KMa

      wow, you're a pretty weak parent too Dennis, grow a sack!

      December 15, 2010 at 19:37 | Report abuse |
  27. cynthia

    sometimes you gotta be a parent and tell your kids....gasp! ...... "NO!"

    December 15, 2010 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. swohio

    If you don't want your kids to have Happy Meals, then don't buy them. Simple as that. If you don't have the parenting skills to make your kids understand that "no" means "NO", then YOU are the one with the problem – not McDonalds. What about that must-have toy that kids nag their parents about? Are you going to sue the toymaker for marketing it to kids?

    I hope, in the name of freedom, that the judge laughs this case out of court.

    Get a grip, America.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Karen

    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."

    Ummm. Does this guy watch tv? Coca Cola has cute polar bears and penguins marketing there product. If that isn't targeting directly to children than what is? I don't think any guy over the age of 14 is watching that polar bear comercial thinking gosh that polar bear is so cool I wanna be like him. Also Santa in red and white is a trade mark of Coca Cola, umm I think santa markets DIRECTLY to 3 year olds.

    If you want to have a child than saying No to that child is your right and your duty. Maybe if people took more responciblity for their children and themselves we would not be in the 2010 obesity crisis. Really is that what we want to be known for in the history books?

    December 15, 2010 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. tachdriver

    Mommy...I want a machine gun for school.....Mommy says OK. You've got to be kiddin' me !!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. nate

    Dennis, maybe your kids shouldnt be watching so much tv

    December 15, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Dana

    Fyi, if your kids want the toys that badly, you can go to McDonald's and buy the toys separately. You're not required to buy the Happy Meal. Same goes for other fast food joints.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Walther Shmit from Oregon

    The CSPI must be run by morons to support this retarded cow and her litter of ill-mannered future convicts. This woman and her children are the best argument I have heard for forced abortion. And how can she afford to buy Happy Meals? McDonald's doesn't accept food stamps do they?

    December 15, 2010 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Bern

    All of you have it all wrong. Why should we be held accountable for our actions and teaching our kids that just because we can does not mean we should? We are in an age of immediate gratification and little self or social responsibility. These kids will have trouble coping if they are taught anything different. Give this woman a gift certificate for free sterilization.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Adam

    Really? This is what we have come to? Basically, this woman is suing because her children are bothering her and she lacks the ability to be a real freakin' parent and just say no. I am an elementary school teacher in NYC. I say no a thousand times a day. It is probably the only time a day most of the kids hear that word.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Kayleen

    Really? As a mother, it is your place to say "no" when needed! Or, let's make it easy for this lady – just don't take your kids to fast food if you don't want them to eat it.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Rebecca Gentry

    Correct me if I am wrong but I am pretty sure she has the authority to NOT take her children to McDonalds. There should be absolutely no issue here, she is obviously bored with her life and has nothing better to do but find a grudge with an easy target. Pathetic.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Bill S.

    "A California woman" says it all. Another looney-tune from the land of fruits and nuts. She doesn't want to take responsibility for her own kids so she makes MacD the culprit. GROW UP AND LEARN TO BE A PARENT woman. I am so glad I don't have to go back to CA to live. I think the klutz that spilled her coffe in her lap was from CA too.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Brandi

    Being a crappy parent isn't a good reason to file a lawsuit.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Bertha

    This lady is full of it!!!!!! Just say NO to your kids and that is that. Stop waisting your time suing and spend your time on being a better mother!!!!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jim

    Isn't saying NO to a child a requirement of being a PARENT! Are stores also responsible if some idiot who breeds can't say no to a child who wants a toy they sell?

    December 15, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Stephany

    Your kids can only eat the Happy Meal if YOU buy it for them. If you don't want to deal with saying no STOP GOING TO MCDONALDS! Grow up and be a parent. What a waste of time for all those involved in this ridiculous lawsuit.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • chumray

      To all the idiots posting these comments:

      Do you really think the motive behind this lawsuit is principle?

      This woman probably made up this crap in order to garnish big, easy, set-for-life bucks from McD's. So all you self absorbed, know it all, self righteous hypocrites get over yourselves for two seconds and recognize that the real atrocity behind this lawsuit it's not bad parenting it's GREED!!!!!

      I have to go back to work now. So to all you soccer moms living off of your cheating spouses paychecks go take a step away from your computer now and check on your children who are watching their happy meal toys float in the toilet

      December 16, 2010 at 12:40 | Report abuse |
  43. lynseypug

    Wow...Just wow. I think I'll sue Mattel, Fisher Price and Disney for making toys that my kid wanted.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tom

    Then go to Chick-fil-A. Get a life.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Lance

    Just another example looking for an excuse when she doesn't want to be the parent. Stop being your kids friend by saying yes (or not saying no as in this case) and be a parent! What a waste of life.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. joe

    this lady is like most of ca they want everything there way and want someone else to do it. she should have to pay all the legal fees when she loses this battle i tell my 13 yo daughter all the time thats what being a parent is all about.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Eric

    Look up the McDonalds coffee lawsuit again. The coffee caused 3rd degree burns to 95% of her genitals after spilling on her causing permanent scaring and permanent damage. The burns were caused within 3 seconds of contact. That lawsuit WAS NOT frivolous. McDonalds kept coffee that hot so that they could get more coffee out of each bean to make more money. Think and do research before you pretend like you know what you are talking about.

    AND this is just a lawsuit that was plead it does not mean that the court will accept it OR classify it as a class action. Anyone can plead a stupid lawsuit it doesnt mean it will go anywhere! Calm down people!

    And I want someone to explain how this lawsuit will drive up the cost of insurance. I figured people posting on a CNN blog would be more intelligent.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rebecca

      Eating and drinking in a car, whether you are the driver for passenger has its risks. Granted, coffee should not be served that hot, but one should also be wary of putting a steaming cup of coffee between ones legs. Perhaps she could have sued Ford for not providing her with a suitable cup holder so she wouldn't have put it between her legs in the first place. But who knows? I don't have a Ford Probe... but most cars come do come with cup holders. Yes, it is terrible what happened to her, and yes, McDonalds had to pay, but eating/drinking is a car is a choice.

      December 15, 2010 at 20:10 | Report abuse |
  48. Nate

    Can anyone say 'Tort Reform' ?

    December 15, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thorrsman

      What percentage of legislators are lawyers? Do you really think they would craft meaningful reform that would damage their industry?

      December 15, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
    • Nate

      Thorssman: You are absolutely correct. That's why they should ban lobyists first. Once that's taken care of (never will happen), they can move on to meaningfull government.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse |
  49. Steven

    I wish you could file a lawsuit against someone for being an idiot. Help us stop 1st degree stupidity!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Kite005

    I have to ask how they know about happy meals? In the McDonalds commercial I see on tv I dont remember seeing one focusing on the toy. As parents they have the ability to say NO if that's what they think is best. For me I've had McDonalds and Burger King type food, as far as I know most of my life. I didn't live on only that. I'm pretty sure there's plenty of other food they ask for unless the parents fed the kids so many happy meals thats all they know. Stay away from Chuck E Cheese also. Or better yet bring them there and sue Chuck E Cheese because they try to make an enjoyable experience for kids while feeding they unhealthy food. Idiots. Center for Science in Public Interest? I'll watch for these bozo's but wouldn't they be better off getting people interested in science if they were interested in science?

    December 15, 2010 at 19:19 | 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 Laura


 

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.