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.
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Good grief, doesn't our court system have enough to do? Lady, if you can't say "no" to your kids your a pretty sorry excuse for a Mother. WHO IS THE PARENT HERE!!! Raise your own kids and leave the government out of it.....if your so worried about your kids health then feed them at home! I am just sick and tired of people blaming others for their problems...if your fat don't eat there! No one held a gun to your head and made you eat a Big Mac and fries! This type of behavior is the result of the "feel good" parenting that's being done today. Say No and that's the end of the story!
On February 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico, ordered a 49¢ cup of coffee from the drive-through window of a local McDonald's restaurant. Liebeck was in the passenger's seat of her Ford Probe, and her grandson Chris parked the car so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. McDonald's required franchises to serve coffee at 180–190 °F (82–88 °C). At that temperature, the coffee would cause a third-degree burn in two to seven seconds. Prior to her lawsuit, there had been approximately 700 other burn cases involving McDonald's between 1982 and 1992. Stella placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her to remove it. In the process, she spilled the entire cup of coffee on her lap. Liebeck was wearing cotton sweatpants; they absorbed the coffee and held it against her skin, scalding her thighs, buttocks, and groin. Liebeck was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered third-degree burns on six percent of her skin and lesser burns over sixteen percent. She remained in the hospital for eight days while she underwent skin grafting. During this period, Liebeck lost 20 pounds (nearly 20% of her body weight), reducing her down to 83 pounds. Two years of medical treatment followed.
Are you suggesting hot coffee as a diet plan? What is the point of your post? Was this her first cup of coffee from McDonalds? Where does personal responsibility play in your comment? I am blaming you for me writing this.
The reason this woman gives for filing the lawsuit is a poor one-The true reason this lawsuit should be persued is that direct marketing to children should be illegal -just as subliminal advertising was outlawed in the past.Many laws are in effect for children because the law feels that children are unable to protect themselves and make informed judgements impinging on their free will. It is a fact that children cannot distinguish between what is presented in adverisements and reality. They need to be protected from the unfair advantage advertisers take of young minds.Imprinting-Brand Loyalty and "From cradle to grave" are all advertising philosophies.And while the courts are at it-I wish they would limit the brainwashing practices of advertising the rest of us are bombarded with constantly also.
For all intents and purposes we are unanomous in favor of Micky D's. I just hope the Judge and jury members that gets assigned this case reads this column.
Perhaps we should ALSO work to ban toy aisles in supermarkets and department stores because they make us say no to our kids, too.
If she is seeking only money, I agree with many of the critical comments. However if she is a children's advocate, I kind of see her point. But before jumping on me, please hear me out.
This is a lawsuit against McDonald's marketing practices which explicitly targets children. There are many laws that govern those types of ads. And there are loopholes.
Regardless of a parent's ability or inability to say 'no', McDonald's is MARKETING TO CHILDREN, influencing them to consume known unhealthy food.
And before you say, "well I grew up on McDonald's and I turned out alright", look around. If this isn't a nation of unhealthy fat people I don't know what one is.
We live just down the road from a McDonald's, which is on the intersection of two fairly major streets. Every time we are stopped at the light, my almost-four-year-old (who loves McDonalds) asks if we are going to get some. Nearly every time I tell him no. "But I want McDonalds." is always the whine-filled answer. What do I do? Turn up the radio, tell him I don't tolerate whining, and we're not getting McDonalds. When we drive past again on the way home... "I want McDonalds!" But, 99 times out of 100, we drive right on past and he gets a home-prepared (and usually home-cooked) meal. If I, at 30, can tell my young child "no" every time he asks without too much guilt, certainly a 41-year-old can.
But drive thru is just plain easier for working parents than spending the time making food at home. Perhaps she should be suing the state (her employer) for making her work such long hours and not being able to have the time/energy to make food herself.
McD's has changed a TON of it's food options. You can't look at a happy meal that consists of 4 white-meat chicken nuggets, a bottle of low-fat milk and apple slices(so take the damn caramel away ya wimp) and say it's unhealthy food. Besides, who REALLY goes to ANY fast food place to get helathy food? Come on. Everyone knows that fast food is supposed to be artery-clogging grease bombs meant as an indulgance on occasion, NOT as a staple diet. If the woman can't deal with companies marketing to her kids and making them think they want something, why not blindfold and ear-plug them now so she doesn't have to deal with a world that markets to kids?
The point of child-based marketing, by the way, is NOT just a here-and-now kind of deal. Ask 100 random people in this country when their first experience with McD's was, and see how many people were originally drawn in by the happy meals or the clown or whatever else they had marketed to kids at the time. Now ask how many STILL go there today-I'd bet it's almost all of them. If you get kids' attention young, you have them for life. If the PARENTS teach them moderation young, they'll be proper patrons of McD's for life.
The lawsuit is not about marketing, because if it was, why isn't she complaining about cartoons or candy/soda ads? I'll bet christmas is hell at her house, what with all the toy commercials her kids watch and them beg for toys from.
Although if this goes through and she wins, everyone should just burn their TVs, radios, and newspaper/magazine subscriptions right now, because marketing will officially be dead. And so will parenting. Though I have to wonder...if you were to ask this woman what her opinion is of a dictatorship-style government that controls every aspect of her life, would she say it's unfair? Because then she'd be a hypocrit as well as an idiot.
Ok so how is it becoming such an issue for businesses to make a profit. They're trying to create an atmosphere to attract families, what's wrong with that. McDonalds is fast food. I don't like McDonalds but I'm not going to sue them for trying to cater to their patrons. American's are so stupid now, suing airlines for trying to make a profit, suing McDonalds for making a profit etc. People need to understands we're in a Capitalist market and grow up. If you want a Communist government where the government controls everything, move to China or Cuba. Good grief.
Good link as a follow up: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2010/12/15/2010-12-15_mcdonalds_suit_over_happy_meal_toys_by_california_mom_monet_parham_new_low_in_re.html
This is ridiculous!!! I have a 3 year old and if I go to McDonald's, I order him the food I prefer and buy the toy separate if I'm inclined. There are other ways around it, you don't have to get a happy meal to get the toy. And, you don't have to go to McDonald's in the first place. The kid won't know anything about it if you're not there. Of course, you could also turn off the boob tube and avoid all McDonald's marketing altogether if it bothers you enough that you'd go to the trouble of filing a lawsuit! But alas, she is just trying to get rich quick. She should be countersued for frivilous claims and forced to pay all of the Defendant's legal fees!
California, the land of cereal.....take out the fruits and nuts and what's left are the flakes. This suit originates in San Francisco...anything else need to be said?
I pretty much echo the sentiments – it is the responsibility of this mother to determine what her kids eat. It is not McDonald's fault that she doesn't know how to say NO to her children. I like the comment from Christie who bought the toys separately. Simply don't take the kids to McDonald's lady!
She should win Mother of the Year...for total lack of responsibility. Blame McDonalds for her poor parenting. I cannot wait until the children are teenagers, and see who she blames/sues then.
If you were reading the above comments you would have known that there was a discussion about a prior lawsuit with McDonald's about coffee spilling on people. Some people said that it was an example of the frivolous lawsuits in this country – while in reality it was a very valid lawsuit. Pay attention before posting. I am blaming you for having to write this.
I couldn't believe what I was reading in the article. People sueing Mc Donalds over something as stupid as toys. Just someone out for a quick buck. My son always wants to go to Mc Donalds too and sometimes we do but I as a parent make the decision whether we go or not. I do not let my child make the decisions where we go.
I would be disapointed to see a happy meal wihout the toy because he would be dsiappointed. I know it is not a healthy meal but he likes it. That is why every once and a while it is a treat for me to take him....he rarely finishes it anyway. I am getting a little tired of people dictating to me what is best for my son. Anyone who has a overweight child needs to rethink their choices. BUT guess what I am not going to be the one to tell them what their choices should be and neither should this lady...Leave my son's happy meal alone.
If your kid can't understand the word "no," then it isn't McDonald's problem. You have a discipline and respect problem in your child. If you're looking to feed your kid healthy food, you shouldn't be in McDonald's in the first place. Here's another woman that needs to be smacked in the head. Shut up!
Okay guys, the California-bashing is tiresome and smacks of envy and jealousy. If you don't like California and don't live here, you should be good. If you live here and want to leave, I hope you get yourself together and find a better place. But I bet the state picks up a few seats following this years census, so somebody likes it. (For the record, the hot coffee lawsuit was in New Mexico.)
Also bashing the first lady for suggesting that children engage in physical activity and eat nutritious food to battle obesity confounds common sense.
ENVY?! JEALOUSY!? I would rather mutilate my genitals than live in California.
Why doesn't this mom just take all of this energy and time on this ridiculous lawsuit and actually... I don't know... PARENT HER CHILDREN!! Learn to say NO. There are things all over this world and media in which it is your job to monitor and keep your children from. If saying "NO!" to your child is really that difficult maybe you should have not had kids in the first place, or, here's a thought... learn to discipline your children to respect authority and listen when you tell them that they can't have something. Who's running the show? You or your kids?
Duh... just buy the toys. You don't have to buy the Happy Meal to get a toy. You can buy the toys at about $2 each.
The woman is a money-hungry slap in the face to all mankind. She gives women a bad name.
Simple solution: Tell your kids "NO"
So this woman wants McDonalds to do her parenting for her, huh.
Hooray for this organization, and the woman filing suit. It looks like they're more concerned about our kids health than a LOT of so called parents out there. For those of you worried about clogging up the courts, sorry but that's what they're there for. To make law. You know, that stuff that this country is based on.
I'm constantly accused of being a "liberal" because I believe the government should regulate business to a degree. When it comes to food safety, I definitely believe the government has a role in protecting us.
But this lawsuit is ridiculous. It is one thing to expect that when I willingly buy peanut butter, for example, it will be safe to eat. I expect peanut buttter, not some other dangerous ingredient to be in it. When I buy peanut butter, I know what to expect.
When I buy McDonalds food, I also know what to expect. I make that choice to buy it or not on my own. It is not the governments role to decide for me what is or is not appropriate for me to eat.
This wonan is lazy. She expects someone else to control her children. Worse, she wants to impose that control on everyone else. SHE should decide what her children eat, not the government, and not her children. If she can't control her children, that is her problem, not McDonalds, not the governments.
She should be ashamed of herself. So should her defenders.
This wide we need to move to a winner takes all court system with regards to lawsuits. If you attempt a frivolous lawsuit it wont simply get thrown out by a judge, instead it will go to court and whoever wins will be liable for payment. If the claimant looses they and their attorneys should be held liable for the entire amount the claimant was originally seeking + court costs + attorneys fees. This is the ONLY way people and atorneys wont attempt these "jackpot" lawsuits.
Only in California! Lady control your kids. Sometimes you have to say no to them.
Clearly McDonalds is good at marketing! It gets the kids to want to go there all the time with parents like this that can't say "no". Its perfect!!! Good stradigy McD's!!!
oh for the love of sweet baby jesus would you please just freaking PARENT your children already?!?!? kids want stuff.sometimes you have to tell them "no". how you deal with anything beyond that says a lot about what kind of a parent you are. suing because your kids whine just about takes the prize in the 'my kids lost the parent lottery' sweepstakes. or should i say the "hot coffee can burn!" award. *facepalm*
Noooooo. McDonald's never mentions Happy Meals in their advertising. But wait, yes they do. Quite prominently. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YQOZoPtCO0&feature=player_embedded
I am always surprised when I go into a store with my kids and see other kids crying and throwing fits to get what they want, I am amazed when parents give in just to shut them up. The word is NO, learn it, use it.
"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."
Ummmm, I wonder if she feels this way about all the other toys that are commercially advertised on TV? After all, isn't that the goal of toy ads? To get into their kids head?
I'm so sick of this crud. Either take resposibility as a parent or don'thave kids if you aren't willing to put your foot down on things like this.
Dumb 'ol Californian woman. Not surprised.
all the presure your kids won't make it though first grade. what is your real problem.
Dear whoever, these comments are annoying!
Waahhh waahh if your kids beg for toys, beat them til they stop! OH OKAY.
Stop whining about people wanting companies to stop PSYCHOLOGICALLY MANIPULATING CHILDREN. We know for a fact that's all marketing is- psychology engineered to convince people to do things. As a society, we accept this, because by being talking into NEEDING that new snuggie or whatever, we are active in the economy and that's good. But leave the kids out of it! There is NO REASON to turning the mental games on kids.
Parents can buy their childrens food without the commercials or the bribes for toys, or keeping the sugar-laden stuff child's eye-height at the grocery store. Market to the people WITH THE MONEY and the EDUCATION (you know, past 4th grade), not to the kids who don't understand nutrition, or have developed the capacity for self-restraint, as their brains are still barely developed. Why are people defending the sleazy companies who want money by having kids pestering their overworked and exhausted parents to death?
And I'm speaking as a kid who did just that growing up, and was so unhealthy i had surgery due to unhealthy eating habits. Now i'm older and can't eat anything without feeling the repercussions of that surgery. My mom didn't know jack squat about nutrition, she believes if it's sold, it must have gone through health tests and been deemed okay. I would have liked a law to protect me when i was young, since there are no laws saying parents have to be competent to reproduce. Laws exist to protect people. If you know your kids are immune to marketing, then super cool dude, you win perfect parent of the year, but for other children who ARE constantly, unendingly barraged by marketing tactics.. what about them? Shouldn't they have the right to grow up without people messing with their minds and letting them discover what THEY want, on their own?
If you are so offending about regulating laws, then you need to go read up on what kind of nonsense went on before we had any. I have no doubts at all the people of the future will be sickened when they go to their history classes and hear about all the marketing to kids, like we feel disgusted by the cigarette ads to them now.
Wow May, sounds like your anger is directed at the wrong people. I'm sorry your mom apparently fed you deep fried everything for every meal years on end and you didn't pick up on any nutrition information in your classes at school. Sayings like "Everything in Moderation" and "An Apple a day keeps the Dr. Away" and "Eat Your Green Vegetables" have been around much longer than Fast Food. Don't blame everybody else for your sad upbrining.
Ignorance is not an excuse! There are plenty of resources to learn about nutrition. Watching your child become so obese that she has to have surgery is reason enough to put those resouses into use. Another example of lazy poor parenting. Should we sue all the toy companies for commercials and advertisments they put out?
she should be suing her kids instead. sue her kids for being kids. sue walmart for having a toy isle. evaluate closely what she servers kids then sue herself. where does it stop? and if shes so anti obese focused there better be n tvs, computers, lazy boys or anything but a hard wood floor and bikes that are never in the garage.
If your kid wants to play in a busy street do you let them then sue the city if they get run over? If you don't want your child to have McDonalds kids meal, that includes a treat, then say NO. If you don't want them to play in the street, say NO. Why blame McDonalds or anyone else for your inability to stand up to your child and say NO. If you are a parent, take a stand – go to parenting classes if you don't know how to raise your child. Some places put coloring books in the childs meal. Go to a restaurant and the childs placemat can be drawn on. Are you going to sue McDonalds since they have a playground and heaven forbid, the children may go outside and play and burn up the calories consumed by the burger and fries? I raised 3 boys and I know that when I said no, that was it. Milllions of us do that- its called being THE PARENT. You, Woman, are a freak. Give your children to someone that isn't afraid to say no. Frivilous lawsuit-total waste of time.
I think McDonald's should ban this idiot from their restaurants. She should use the money she's spending on the lawsuit to take a parenting class.
""The food industry has a responsibility not to intrude into families by using sleazy marketing techniques"
The next time a health food restaurant offers a coupon or a free appetizer or something like that, I'm going to sue them. How dare they try to intrude on my family and entice us to eat their food!
That's ridiculous. I hope she doesn't get any money out of it.
Lawyers only get paid for class actions suits when they win!!
Really? Learn how to say no to your spoiled brat! Or just buy the toy, you can buy it seperately from the meal!
Maybe she should have never introduced her kids to fast food than she wouldn't be having this problem! She needs to be beat... that's so dumb to sue over I really hope people make fun of her for the rest of her life!
I'm so tired of the whining and it's somebody else's fault why children aren't being parented. Tell your kids no is no end of story instead of tying up the legal system with ridiculous lawsuits because you don't have the backbone to BE THE PARENT!
@mrsmarvel: Are you kidding me?? The coffee was 180-190 degrees. If you're going to tell someone to do the research then maybe YOU should first. And there was a warning on the cup...just not big enough for this particular jury.
There are lots of families out there that manage to keep their kids away from McDonalds without assistance. They choose to eat or not to eat at McDonalds. That is their choice. McDonalds doesn't tell then what to eat, and neither do their children.
This woman is trying to take the option of choice away from others because she is incapable of making those decisions herself.
Suing because it's hard to say 'no' to your kids? Are you kidding me? Next she'll be suing Toys 'R Us for selling toys!
Parents really do need to parent their kids. Since this lady has no ability to say no to her kids, I will offer up a suggestion. Let the lawsuit go through but with my attachment. I call on all parents who agree with this lady to run and sign up with her. Once we have gathered all the names we enact my part of the deal. Since you can't parent such a simple task, then the safety and well being of your child is at risk. We should remove the kids from these parents and find them homes with responsible adults.
"A California woman is suing McDonald's claiming the fast-food giant uses toys to market directly to young children" ...duh
Maybe they ought to send Nanny 101 to help her with her 6 year old. Or maybe send her to a parenting course or tough love course.
I stopped going to McDonald's because my kid was screaming for the toys. The toys got better and but the food quality definitely got worse the last couple of years! And yes, you (not your kids) need some discipline. Cook a healthy meal for your kids on a regular basis and buy them once a week or less a hamburger meal. I think there are other restaurants out there that sell better quality food than McDonald's. Happy parenting everyone...
HOW PATHETIC ! Another wonderful parent, who abdicated her responsibility as a parent, trying to make a buck with a ridiculous lawsuit. McDonalds has the right to market and sell whatever it wants. The parent has the right to say NO. That's called parenting. I rarely go to McDonald's or any fast food restaurant, but when I do my child eats chicken nuggets, apple dippers, and milk. Does she want french fries and soda? Of course. But it is MY job, not McDonalds job, to see that she eats healthier food.