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. Henrywidget

    I love it!!! When was the last time you saw this many comments to a story where virtually 99% of the people agreed? It's called "being a responsible parent". Duh!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Thorrsman

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest abuses science and does not work for the public interest.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Carl

    Can we please start prosecuting morons like this Mom who is suing McDonalds for criminal action in wasting the people's resources on these frivolous lawsuits? Gawd!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jimmy

    I roll on the floor laughing so hard to this. Sounds to me like another leech of society out to get money. This is so ridiculous it is beyond my comprehension.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. cubbiesbob

    I cannot believe that we have come to a lawsuit such as this. I'm no fan of corporate america, but give me a break. If this woman does not take her kids into a MacDonalds, they will not have the Happy Meal toys "dangled in front of them". I have yet to see an ad showing HM toys. There have been promotional items in our economy since the dawn of market capitalism. If you are such poor parent that you need the government to tell you how to say no to your kids for a happy meal, Child Services should take your kids away.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. William Forrester

    Should we provide any less protection for our children against the insidious power of TV advertising then we do for adults? We saw fit to banish liquor and cigarette ads from the TV screen, why not junk food targeting kids?

    December 15, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Danny

    WOW!! i am amazed that for onces everyone agrees with this STUPIDNESS! hahahahha the woman has some big issues! i guess her folks never let her have the happy meal so she is getting revange! hahahah LONG LIVE THE HAPPY MEAL!! I LOVE THE TOY!!!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. John Izzo

    Here is a novel concept- say no to your kids rather than using this behavior as a pretext for a lawsuit. The food police need to take a chill pill. All I ask is that I be told what is in it and let me decide from there.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. chens

    In the time it took me to read these responses deriding this woman, and her lawyers, for this ridiculous waste of taxpayer time and money, 40 more vitriolic responses came in. Too bad we can't have a statute that requires public review before any lawsuits can be brought forward...

    December 15, 2010 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Colin in Florida

    To mrsmarvel: "However, do the research on the McDonald's hot coffee suit. The coffee was brewed above boiling and that's how they served it. It was out of industry safety practices and McDonald's knew it. They had been warned about it. The suit wasn't brought because they didn't warn her the coffee was hot. The suit was brought because they irresponsibly brewed the coffee to something like 300 degrees and served it at that temperature, causing bodily injury when it spilled. And no, she wasn't driving either. She was sitting in the passenger seat.

    So, according to you, mrsmarvel, McDonalds can now violate the laws of physics as well! The only way water (and coffee is just flavored water) can reach 300 F is in something like a industrial pressure cooker-water boils at 212 F under normal conditions, but is normally brewed, according to best coffee industry practices, around 205 F, just below boiling. Ipso facto, your information and thus your opinion are useless, just like the mom in this story.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 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.

      I do not know how hot the coffee was, but it was hot enough to do that!

      December 15, 2010 at 19:53 | Report abuse |
  11. robert

    She should only blame herself not Micky D, did Mcdonalds force you to buy the happy meal for your kids... I think not!!!! why you taking them to fatty fast food anyways? stay home a cook them a healthy meal instead!!!!!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sarah

    Here's a thought for the mother – how about YOU get inside your kids head and teach them about healthy eating. This lawsuit is absurd.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Amanda

    I guess she will be suing the cereal makers next. They put toys in their boxes of sugary cereals, and then they advertise them using cartoon characters. The Flintstones! Lucky the Leprechaun! Tony the Tiger! What parent can resist the pressure to tell their child "no"? I can't speak for the rest of you, but my car doesn't automatically pull into a McDonalds and order Happy Meals for my kids. They can ask until the cows come home, but until they get a job and and their driver's license, they will eat what I put on the table. What a stupid lawsuit.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. MIKE

    people who sue over issues like this are nothing but parasites! geez! make me sick

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

    This is such a horrible example for her children. They should take them away from her before they turn out to be idiots like her. What a total POS. I hope that she gets the public humiliation that she deserves to the point of having to move to the Congo were she will get treated the way she deserves.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. han

    I have an idea just buy the toy and not the meal. Wow so hard people these days

    December 15, 2010 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Don

    Next my son is going to sue me because I told him "no"

    December 15, 2010 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Tim

    LMAO..... Who's next Mattel for having commercials for they're newest toy. Walmart, Target and Toys R Us for selling those toys. Because every time I enter with my children into these stores my kids start in about buying them what they had just seen on TV. I have to tell them NO. I need to SUE someone for that. How dare they do this to my child and make me the bad guy. Then I'll have to put them in therapy and spend thousands. Just to let them know that the world really doesn't revolve around them. WOMAN GET A LIFE AND LEARN HOW TO BE A REAL PARENT.

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

    just say no to your kids, simple as that

    December 15, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. David

    It's time America wakes up and stops being lazy. Raise your kids like your suppose to. People now expect schools or some after school program or even tv to raise there kids, tell your kids now they wine punish them some more take things away that they want and if they don't care take more away. and get the kids outside with others so they can be healthy instead of sitting on a game system. Nothing against the country it's self but the people, America your getting sad.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. AKchic

    Suing because her kids pester her to go to McDonalds for the toys? She has to say "no" and that's somehow a reason to sue McDonalds?
    As a parent, it is our job (and sometimes our pleasure) to say "No". In some cases, a "hay-ell no" (think teenage co-ed slumber party, alcohol/drugs, credit card at 12, cell phone at 8, etc).
    If she cannot stomach the idea of having to say the word "no", then she should not be a parent. Parents aren't supposed to be your friend. The job of a parent is to guide them through life and teach them to make the right choices and teach them how to be fully-functioning, well-balanced adults. Adults are told "no" all the time.
    By saying "no" to McDonalds, she is teaching her kids that life is full of disappointments, both large and small. No McDonalds is a small disappointment. Having a mother stupid enough to blame McDonalds for her inability to consistently say "no" is a big one.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Jenna

    A novel idea: Don't take your kids to McDonald's!! It can be done, I promise. I have never taken my son there, and he is 3. He has no clue what McDonald's is, and therefore never asks. He does know what Chick-Fil-A is, and asks every day to go – but here's another novel thing that I do: I say no 9 times out of 10.

    Crazy, I know.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. ryan

    Next you can sue Disney, or Pixar for making your kids want to buy their toys or movies instead of other toys or movies. Be a parent, and make sure your kids know what is good for them and bad for them. If you dont eat at McDonalds then your kids wont eat at McDonalds. What a frivolous law suit.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Daniel

    I think she shuld grow up and be a parent! I have two children and my 8 yr old daughter knows not to even ask to go to McDonalds, I'm her father, not her buddy! This lady is a wack job, suing McDonalds. You need a license to drive a car, but not to have children! what a trash bag!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jesse

    Did anyone ever tell her that you can buy the toys without buying the happy meal? I do that all the time.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. T3chsupport

    Awesome! Does that mean we get to ban every single commercial on Cartoon Network? I mean, they're using sleazy marketing to get our little brats to pester us for their overpriced, Chinese-made junk. It makes it really annoying when I leave my kid in front of the TV all day, and he won't stop asking me for all of this garbage.

    Yeah, I could probably find my way onto the news if I did something so stupid, but I'd never do such a thing. Why? Oh yeah, because if I was that bad of a parent, I most certainly wouldn't want EVERYONE to know all about it like they now do.

    Hey bimbo, you're a bad mom!
    Let's all point and laugh.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Gladys Holstein

    I am hoping that this is just the beginning of a firestorm of lawsuits against this mega corporation over it's sleazy marketing promotions aimed at children. Yes, the parents should say no, but sadly most do not. Just take a look in those cars at the drive thru, and see whos sitting in those mini vans at lunch and dinnertime hours. Kids.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary

      That is the fault of the parents not the corporation people need to accept the consequences of their actions not play the blame game. This is a free country (for now) and people have the choice to buy or not to buy no one is forcing them. Just Say No.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:55 | Report abuse |
  28. donnuan

    Toy companies have been using the same tactics for decades, broadcasting their commercials on television during childrens programming – it's called marketing. Jeesh – some people are such knuckeheads.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Mark

    If everyone disowns their friends for doing things like this maybe people would think before looking for a free ticket. Send her the bill for the court fees please.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Jim X

    I'm a Liberal, meaning I want equality and fairness for all. When I see a story like this, I come out in favor of capital punishment for blatant stupidity and greed.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Charles

    I've read a lot of posts that suggest just to turn off the TV. Are you people crazy? The TV is the cheapest babysitter she can find! Without it, she might actually have to (gasp) pay attention to and participate with her own kids! Now that's really just crazy talk. Next you people will want her to teach her kids values and consequences and things like that...

    December 15, 2010 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Poolchick

    This is one of the most ridiculous cases I've ever heard of. What a wing nut and hopefully it gets thrown out of court. She is claiming McDonalds is getting into her kid's heads without her permission. Well lady, don't take your kids to McDonalds if you have such a hard time saying "No" to them. That is like saying a store can't sell candy or toys since all kids want those items. She is definitely missing a brick or two.

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

    They should be sued for the fat and chemical poison in their foods, not the toys. No one should ever include that stuff in their diet.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Jessica

    I am by NO MEANS a stellar parent. However, regarding this issue: my kids didn't even know that kids' meals came with toys until my daughter was five and my son was three (I just used to quietly ask the cashier not to include the toy - mostly because the last thing I need was more junk in my house). When I asked my four-year-old recently if he wanted to go to McDonald's with our playgroup, he responded "What's McDonald's?" (even though we had been there before - it wasn't so frequent that he readily recognized the name). We went, he experienced a Happy Meal (and the toy), and that was that. We haven't been back since, but he hasn't asked. Moderation + discipline = no need for a lawsuit. (We also talk in our house a LOT about marketing/advertising and how it's designed to get your attention and make you want to buy things and that sometimes companies even fudge the truth a bit to persuade you.)

    December 15, 2010 at 19:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Poolchick

      Good for you Jessica. Too bad most people don't teach their kids the way you do and too bad that idiot will never see your post to learn from it.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:47 | Report abuse |
  35. Ed

    What do you bet the mom is under 5' 6" and is tipping the scales north of a deuce and quarter....I bet thats Ronald's fault as well!!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daniel

      you need a license to drive, not to have children. Maybe this lame duck congress can get that into law?

      December 15, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      Daniel: Hear hear! I've been saying this for years. If the government needs verification of the need for such a law, they but need to shop at a Wal-Mart and listen to the screeching kids, and watch their stupid parents blithely walk about the store as if they don't hear anything. Or the kids running wild in restaurants while the parents go on with their dinners and expect the rest of the patrons to babysit for them. If you're too dumb to know what good manners are, too weak to discipline, too selfish to spend time raising, and too ethically challenged to set a good example for kids, you shouldn't be allowed near one. Let alone allowed to create ones of your own.

      December 16, 2010 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
  36. Addison

    My grandaughter has never been to McDonalds and she is almot four. She watches TV too. She likes Taco Bell for the nacho cheese dip (not the toys) and she gets it ocassionaly and she is one happy kid.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Daniel

    Nut Job! As a father, my daughter knows she is not going to McDonalds, she does not even ask. My job is to teach my children what is right and what is not, including good nutrition. If this lady does not have the ability to tell her children “NO” then maybe she should find them better parents. Our country is going to hell in a hand basket!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Zachary

    I thought that McDonalds offered kids healthy choices such as apples and milk instead of the pop and fries or am I mistaken? I haven’t been to McDonalds for a while.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary

      They do some idiots just like to sue.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:50 | Report abuse |
    • CGim

      Zachary, they do offer apple slices, and apple juice. The mother should be ashamed for blaming Mc Donalds for her lack of control, self esteem, and exploitation of a lawsuit just to get money. She is a farce and money grubber. Heck Mc Donalds offer 99 cent salads, get your kids that and pick up a toy at the 99 cent store.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:54 | Report abuse |
  39. John

    McDonald's could solve this very easily...if they wanted to....by offering the McDonald's toy as a separate item on the menu. This would give the person ordering the choice to include the toy or not. This would be a win-win that would allow people who don't really want it to not be forced to buy it (i.e. put the choice in the consumers hands). Then the person filing this lawsuit could take personal responsibility (what a concept) for whether she buys the toy or not for her child.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mary

      You can buy the toy separately.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:49 | Report abuse |
    • Tara

      Actually McDonald's does offer the toys separately, if you want to just buy the toy it's a little under 2 bucks.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:52 | Report abuse |
    • CGim

      You can actually do this... I have asked for no toys because It wasn't what my daughter would be interested in. They had no problem of not including the toy. I don't know if you have Chic fil- a out where you live but the put books, and eduction toys in there kids meals.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:58 | Report abuse |
  40. AQuatroni

    Another ridiculous lawsuit to bog down the courts. I am so sick of these people.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Diane

    Does she not realize that a Happy Meal is one of the healthiest thing McDonalds sells. We should all be eating Happy Meals when we go there instead of the Big Mac's and Quarter Pounders.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Meaty Portion

    This is McWeird.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Poolchick

      LMAO! Thanx for the chuckle.

      December 15, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse |
  43. Michael

    I think America is becoming painfully misguided. Lawsuits like this only happen becasue there is some dumb lawyer out there that will take the case and allow it to happen. People in this country are becoming truly idiots and whiners. It makes me sick!!!

    December 15, 2010 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. angie

    So you're suing because your kids have a natural desire for toys? I'm sorry you were ever allowed to breed.

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

    Nice to know this mother is such a bad mother she cannot tell her own kids no. Maybe she needs to give them up to some people who would love them and take care of them properly including telling them no once in a while.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. AesopsRetreat

    Hey lady, WHO is the parent? When you say NO do you consistently allow your mean little kids to override you, forcing you to buy the Happy Meal? Here's a tip: Get Some Counceling!

    The next thing you can do is to STOP taking them through the Golden Arch doors in the first place! For christ sake, you already know what they want to force you to order!

    And here is a final tip. Don't take them to Crazy Joes Burger Barn down the road. They give away free ice picks with every Big Boy Belly Bruiser. I'm not sure you'd survve the trip home.... :- )

    Oh yeah. How in the heck did a lady like you end up with two kids like that? Oh I forgot. You can't say NO..

    December 15, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Poolchick

      Lol! I'm lovin' these posts. Your last line is a gooder. lmao!

      December 15, 2010 at 19:52 | Report abuse |
  47. Tara

    This is ridiculous, don't sue a company that's just trying to earn money because you don't have the patience to be a good parent...I'm sorry, but if you're trying to use industries to parent your children, I personal think that is neglectful...it's like using the television as a babysitter. If you want to have kids, step up to the plate and be a parent, and yes, saying "no" is a part of being a parent sometimes. If you don't want your children influenced by fast food, then don't take them to fast food restaurants...and don't make the person behind the counter lie to your children for you, that's not really fair, the person behind the counter is just trying to do his job, which does not include parenting your kids.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. katie

    So then, why go to McDonalds? Why not make your children nutritious homemade meals and sit down to a table with them? This kind of mentality is so warped. There is no law forcing her to take her kids to fast food take out joints.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Christie

    Please... I have 2 boys myself ages 2 and 4. McDonalds is giving Transformers with their Happy Meals right now. My kids want to go everyday so they can get one not that they want to eat the meal just that they want the toy. I tell them NO... Parents tell your children NO... I actually like the toys and bought just the toys no meal for $1.77 each to place into their stockings for Christmas...

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

    Kids also want to go because they have playgrounds too. I think they are gross and we do not go to those places for that reason. Also as a grown up do you really go to the restaurant that has a toy vs food you like and is good for you.

    December 15, 2010 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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