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. butch

    then dont go to mcdonalds!!! stupid!!!

    December 15, 2010 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Milo

    I am absolutely disgusted that this mother and the organization joining in this lawsuit can't find anything better to do with their time. There are so many worthy causes that these people could fight for. Why not fight for educational funding? Demanding food and shelter for the kids that have become homeless in this ugly economy? Why not fight childhood obesity by attacking the disease? Here's a hint: if you provide enough evidence to the community that McDonald's is doing something wrong, they'll stop supporting McDonald's. That's how you stop the sale of the Happy Meal.

    Fact is, I have a 6 year old daughter. We drive past McDonald's every day when I pick her up from school. Yes, most days she whines about how she wants a Happy Meal. No, most days she doesn't get one. It's as simple as that. If I don't want her to live on processed chicken parts and cheap toys, then I have to ACT LIKE A PARENT AND SAY NO. I know this is for her own good, and I've explained that to her (and, yes, she understands). We offer a Happy Meal as a special occasion, such as a good report card or a difficult doctor's visit.

    These people need to realize that McDonald's (and the others) is a business - designed to sell things and make money for its shareholders - and nothing more. It is not the Illuminati, trying to take over the world by brainwashing one child at a time.

    December 15, 2010 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Brian E

    Okay, this is just ridiculous. The parent obviously doesn't want to admit that they are unable to take responsibility for her lack of parenting and inability to say no to her children, and if "McDonalds makes it that much harder to do", then DON'T EAT AT MCDONALDS!

    And what is the deal with the CSPI? Center for Science in Public Interest? Who in today's society is in any position to say what is best for public interest, be it science, national security, or whatever? That's just redundant.

    December 15, 2010 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. riverick

    Maybe this lazy mommy needs to cook at home and teach her children that no is something they will encounter in life !

    December 15, 2010 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Really?

    Seriously, woman! SAY NO TO YOUR KIDS! Geez

    December 15, 2010 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. muffdiver

    Let's see!!! 41 yr old about to lose job, black, tired of working, kids born on welfare and county, dad or dads not contributing 100% but 0%!!! Why not sue every nano second of the day??? This is called brilliant marketing not advertising!!! I hope that those who sue will have to pay those top defense lawyers to shut those sue miners down for good!!! I eat menudo, bacon, eggs, chicken for breakfast buffet: Kids eat fruit loops; say what, at $4.00!!! I eat steak, chicken, fish, ham, pizza, fruit and salad for dinner buffet: Slim girls and women eat little salad and little fruit; whow, at $13-$15!!! Got at least 15 Joe Camel T-shirts, shorts, and sweat shirts!!! I asked camel smokers for their coupons, all gave smiling!!! Got all the items free!!!! Smoked no coupons multi-filter for years until carton was passing $15.00 in 1995 and quit cold turkey by not buying anymore and smoking anymore!!! 2003 Got Diabetes 2 and quit all sugar, which includes alcohol!!! Diabetes and many illnesses are the perfect advertisement – don't obey – you die, guaranteed!!! 41 yr old is a sick puppy to come at that level!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

    Are you kidding me? At what point do we take any kind of responsibility for our own actions. If you don't want your kids to eat McDonalds don't let them eat it, just say no. I have 4 kids and I have to say no to more important questions or demands.

    December 15, 2010 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. me

    I always get my kids the hamburger, apples and milk. I see no problem with this. It's not every day, either. I want them to get the hamburger for their iron counts. My son had his iron a little low as a toddler. That can cause brain damage. So, I appreciate being able to get a hamburger for him. And, apples and white milk are perfectly fine.
    A toy is all the better. They love it! I think Happy Meals HELP keep my kids healthy, especially when we are on the go and don't have time to cook, but don't want to eat cookies and junk.

    December 15, 2010 at 22:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jesus Montana

    To all those who believe parenting is to be a child's best friend, do yourself and any potential out of control child a favor, get yourself fixed and volunteer at a Boys and Girls Club. As a police officer working in schools, I see so many parents who treat their child like their best friend and fear getting them mad, particularly those who are divorced parents. By the time they get to high school they wonder where they went wrong and why they don't have control of their children. True parenting is one who prepares their children for the future. One way to do that is to simply master the use of a two letter word, "NO!"

    December 15, 2010 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Michael Young

    Your health and the health of your children is not the responsibility of the food industry, its yours! My parents told me no even if I didn't like it so your kids will get over it.

    December 15, 2010 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. LOL this woman is stupid

    nuff said

    December 15, 2010 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Effie Hemms

    So tell me again why you all are so gung-ho to defend this nasty burger-joint corporation's right to manipulate your children?

    December 15, 2010 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MJ

      Because that is their right- we live in AMERICA, not some fascist regime controlled country. They have the right to advertise and to try and sell their product and we all have the right to say NO! Nobody is forcing us to eat there. My parents actually did their job while I was growing up and told my brother and I no and we don't harbor any hard feelings and are not emotionally damaged because they told us no.

      December 16, 2010 at 00:18 | Report abuse |
  13. Dan Crampton

    People like this are disgusting....going to court because your kids want something what is wrong with this woman!! Just say NO it s not that hard quit making others responsible for raising your kids!!

    December 15, 2010 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Easily Answer

    I will pitch in 5 bucks to buy them sunglasses and earplugs to wear all day and not be bombarded by this horrible act on McDonalds part. I am sure some judge will send it to trial. Way to go California, you won't pass the legalization of marijuana, but you allow this person to live in your state?

    December 15, 2010 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mr C

    Ms marvel,
    I agree with all the comments about this being a frivolous lawsuit, but if you're going to call someone out on their comment about the coffee lawsuit make sure you have basic undestanding of science. Coffe can't be served above 212 degrees(boiling point), so it can't be served above that. Not that it matters.
    just get it right because it detracts from your argument

    December 15, 2010 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mark

    No, no, no, NO, no, nooooo, no...say it with me...No, no, no, NO, no, nooooo, no, NO, no, nooooo, no, no, no, NO, no, nooooo, no, NO, no, nooooo, no, no, no, NO, no, nooooo, no, NO, no, nooooo, no.... again.... no, no, NO, no, nooooo, no, NO, no, nooooo, no, NO, NO, NO, nope, no, no, NO, no, nooooo, no, NO, no, nooooo, no.... let's try something new... nein, nyet, nix, no. See how easy it is.

    December 15, 2010 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ohreallynow

      OK–that was the best and very succint!!!!!

      December 15, 2010 at 23:34 | Report abuse |
  17. ohreallynow

    Wow!!! This parent is really ready to relinquish her responsibilities as a parent to the US government (via the courts) because she can't say no to her kids? I suppose she is going to sue the cable company too because her kids are fat due to watching too much television? Will she sue the candy companies when her kids' teeth rot out from all the Halloween candy they ate? Has it really occurred to her she is responsible for her children and it is her job to make sure they develop healthy habits? It goes to show that just because someone can have kids doesn't mean they are parents.

    December 15, 2010 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. CaffeineJunky6

    Seriously? McDonald's has the right to market their product until a law states otherwise. As a parent, I don't believe anyone twisted your arm into buying Happy Meals for your kids. Sounds to me like poor parenting to me. Sheesh, if I asked for something one too many times as a kid, all it took from MY mother was that "look." I knew not to ask again after that. What a waste of resources! Oh, and she works for the government? Remember the woman who spoke up at one of the town hall meetings telling the Pres she was tired of defending him? She lost her job not long ago, so I won't be surprised if this stupid woman somehow finds herself unemployed soon for making a stink over something that SHE has control over. Idiot.

    December 15, 2010 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. KJ

    This woman is greedy & too lazy to tell her children no. Blame, blame, blame! Lacks parenting skills. She is wasting so much precious time & money. She's pitiful. ridiculous!

    December 15, 2010 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Rapturus

    Who wants money for no good reason...Happy Meal lady! You don't see me suing Hollywood or TOHO for making Godzilla movies that I have loved for over 15 years, got teased in school over, beat up and dropping out of high school over, and having people who KNEW me from school still tease me to this day if they see me! No, guess what, in that case it isn't the company's fault, it is who is responsible for what happens in school, like perhaps the principal who TEASED me too. If my mom did what you're doing to McDonald's to those who make Godzilla, I'd be embarrassed, ashamed, and would not have a very good relationship with her anymore! FRIVOLOUS! You should be ashamed, you greedy selfish JERK. KIDS CAN UNDERSTAND IF YOU TELL THEM "We can't afford to get Happy Meals like this" But I highly doubt that's a problem for you seeing as you're using them for a pointless lawsuit! ANYONE AGREE?!?

    December 15, 2010 at 23:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Wolf

    I buy these for my kid. Sometimes I like the toys. But other times I get him the $2.99 Mini Meal. LESS price MORE drink. NO Toy. It is MY choice to buy them for him. I say NO when he wants one and I don't want him to have one. There Done.

    December 15, 2010 at 23:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. MJ

    "persuade the kids to persuade the parents"

    Um, how about parents do their job and raise their children and quit blaming everybody else. No is a simple, 2 letter word a child should learn early in life. Oh gosh, your child is pestering you? That's what children do! Don't want to be pestered and don't want to say no? Don't have kids!

    December 16, 2010 at 00:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Mike

    This lady is off her rocker, I bet she will try to sue Santa Claus next because her kids believe in him. She needs to have her head examined for being a Class "A" idiot. If this was my wife I would be telling her to shut her pie hole get in the kitchen and make my kids a decent meal and stop embarrassing are family name. What is wrong with people today, and McDonalds will probably settle so they don’t have to deal with some crazy person. Lady wake up and smell reality and worry more about the Social Security and Health care for your children's future instead of a meaningless toy..

    December 16, 2010 at 00:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RJ

    How about having a family policy of not allowing television. That way the kids won't be bombarded by McDonalds or any other commercial aimed at children.

    December 16, 2010 at 00:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. MJ

    Next she is going to try and sue them for having a play place in some locations, saying that entices kids to want to go there. Then from there amusement parks will be sued saying their rides and junk food make kids want to go there as well, and it will go on and on and on with more and more and more stupid lawsuits.

    December 16, 2010 at 00:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. SocietyRevolution

    Really? In that case, my wife is going to sue Porsche, Rolex, Sony and Playboy because they advertise things that I constantly ask for but she has to say 'No'.

    It it shameful how people will use their kids as pawns for a quick way out of money trouble. These poor kids don't stand a chance.

    December 16, 2010 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. sanjosemike

    For the sake of discussion, let's say that we can agree with her that McDonalds uses "insidious methods to sell unhealthy food to young children." We can also agree with her that her kids, and others will "pester" their parents to buy the stuff.

    Even if that is true, that is only a small list of unhealthy and even down-right dangerous stimuli her children will have to resist in their lives. A parent of young children is NOT obligated to give a detailed reason for a no to a question. An attempt can be made to explain the reasons, if she wishes.

    Rather than suing McDonalds, I think she can use this as an educational experience for her young children. Drop the suit, and just say no.

    However, I can agree with her if she refuses to pay for the medical treatment of chronically obese adults. sanjosemike

    December 16, 2010 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Rapturus

    I WORKED at McDonald's for a while, perhaps this lady doesn't know that, at least where I worked, Lions Club and McDonalds would do Happy Meals for one classroom of kids per month. (Done by the LIONS CLUB) we just fixed 30 happy meals and Hi-Cs and packed them for the Lions club. Oh and what about the Ronald McDonald house? Its not like they're evil and don't give back! But heck, it wouldn't matter to this lady unless one of her kids had to be hospitalized and they needed help from there! And I did have people come in all the time and tell their kids 'no' to a happy meal or just bought the toy. The more I read the more I think and realize how dumb this is. This lady sues and (only if courts are crooked) wins...GUESS WHERE THE MONEY FOR RONALD MCDONALD HOUSE GOES! SHAME ON YOU!

    December 16, 2010 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Taffy

    So after I commented I went back and read more of other peoples comments... Wow.. And she supposedly commented on this too and thinks that we are jealous because she got her name in the paper... Congratulations lady..So it just goes to show that all she wanted was money and notoriety..... I agree we should know what the ingredients in our food are, and also what they are being cooked in..I agree that there should be highly visible warning labels on dangerous items. I agree that I should teach my children to eat healthier. I agree that I should regulate how much (if any) time my kids spend in front of the Idiot Box (my Grandfathers clever moniker for the TV). I do NOT however agree that because of other peoples opinions, that my rights and the rights of my children should be taken away. It is MY right as a parent to treat my children to a snack of their choosing when they have done something that warrants rewarding. It is MY right as a parent to say no when I do not want to give in to their every desire.

    December 16, 2010 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. think tank

    Nothing wrong with mcdonalds marketing. This is the free market working as it should, making sure that people who invest in them make money in their stocks and ensures that people are employed. Everything is about equilibrium and its up to parents to parent their kids and ensure they dont eat too much of anything. Theres bigger things going on in this world that need attention, but that would be like stepping out of the matrix to see the real world as it really is....

    December 16, 2010 at 01:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Sue

    @ mrsmarvel, the coffee wasn't 300 degrees, it was 180 degrees.

    as for this woman, she needs to learn how to parent. Part of the job of a parent is to tell their kids no. No one is forcing her to take her children to McDonald's or to buy them stuff. When we were young, when we nagged our parents, they told us to knock it of or else. That was all that was needed.

    December 16, 2010 at 01:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Brian L

    So she wants to sue because SHE cannot discipline her kids enough where they learn that NO means just that....NO.

    December 16, 2010 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Lia

    mcdonalds should reverse you her for emotional trauma! dang! what would the world be without its happymeals!

    December 16, 2010 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Carl

    Once again, the CSPI shows that they aren't really pro-science, they are just nuts.

    People, learn to say "no" to your kids. If you can't tell your kids that they can't have every toy they see on TV, you are not fit to be a parent.

    December 16, 2010 at 02:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Aaron in Texas

    Odd, she blames McDonald's for "getting into her kid's heads." Where do the kids see the advertising? Does she let them sit all day and watch television unsupervised? There are not many television ads for McDonald's lately, and the ones that do rarely feature toys.
    Also, it's not like McDonald's advertises in elementary schools, or tells the kids in their ads to "beg your parents for this and you'll get it."
    If she doesn't allow her kids to have McDonald's, and she monitors what they watch on television, McDonald's would have ZERO influence on her children's desires. But no, in her mind it is not her fault, or even the television's fault, or the desirability of the toys themselves - she knows McDonald's has buckled under the pressure of more ridiculous cases in the past, she believes her case should be a cinch.

    I hope our government proves her wrong, and stamps out this lack-of-common-sense-lawsuit trend once and for all.

    December 16, 2010 at 02:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ninaramey

    Free Samples are offered for a limited time so when they are posted please take advantage of the offer before it is gone. Look online for "123 Get Samples" where I was able to get healthy product samples.

    December 16, 2010 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. backwards

    We all know this lawsuit is sad on so many levels. The one I want to point out that many have overlooked is, this woman is claiming the marketing tactic to be deceptive. The last commercial I have seen for a happy meal showed that upon ordering a happy meal, I would recive a burger or nuggets, fries or apple slices, a choice of juice, cola or milk and a toy. In the few times that I have ordered a happy meal for my children in the last 6 years, I oddly recived, in either a box or bag, a hamburger or nuggets, fries or apple slices, a toy and on the outside of said packaging, either a cola, juice or milk. If you want to place a stupid lawsuit to make your life easier on the basis of deception, sue the government and all of America's school systems for continually allowing silent letters in the english language.

    December 16, 2010 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. adam

    Tobacco and Alcohol producers are banned from marketing to children because the products they sell are also restricted from sale to minors. McDonalds sells food and the last time I checked it was not illegal to sell food to, or buy food for, minors. This lazy woman should realize that when her children grow up there will still be unhealthy food choices that they should avoid.
    Bottom line is.....if they pester you then you tell them no; if they keep pestering you then you pop that a$$.

    December 16, 2010 at 02:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Amy

    Hello, just tell the kids no! Works like a charm in my house – when they never get it, they don't miss it.

    December 16, 2010 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. ug

    Awwwww..Come on now..How u can say NO to 5 yrs old's?? And all the toy's came out from the that red box?? Come on..
    Next im gona sue the Marlboro to give me a a cancer..no wait somebody already sue for that..well than im gona sueing fastfood and chinese buffet restaurants for make me fat..wait ..never mind..im sure someone somewhere did that too..

    December 16, 2010 at 04:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Brian

    You have got to be kidding me. If you don't want your kids to eat a happy meal don't take them to McDonalds. This stupid bi*** needs to get a life and quit blaming others because she is a bad parent. Does her kids bug her for christmas presents, well she better sue Santa Claus next. What a moron!!!!

    December 16, 2010 at 05:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Lynn3765

    This could be a class action suit??? Problem is that this is in California and we know that the judicial "people" out there have some skewed ideas as to justice. Here is hoping the judge that g4ets this case laughs it out of the courtroom and then slaps the idiot lawyer (one will take this) and Miss idiot there with a frivolous lawsuit charge...we can always hope.

    December 16, 2010 at 06:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Lynn3765

    In response to some others here, this time of year, toys are being advertised all over the place. Miss Idiot there better sue all the toy companies as well 🙂

    December 16, 2010 at 06:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. JoBag-a-donuts

    as soon as california fiqures out THEY need to raise there children...I bet most of their other problems will go away as well. this is a good arguement for birth control

    December 16, 2010 at 06:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Ron Stebelton

    I once chose to weigh 256 pounds. I say that I chose to weigh that because I never accidentally ate anything in my life. And, I realized that I never gained any weight from any food I didn't eat. 🙂

    December 16, 2010 at 06:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. JoBag-a-donuts

    as soon as California figures out THEY need to raise THEIR children...I bet most all their problems will go away

    December 16, 2010 at 06:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. GettingTiredofitAll

    This is just another pitiful example of people not wanting to take responsibility for their own actions. Why have so many parents abdicated responsibility for raising their children? Who's in charge of the household? My own grandchildren ask their parents to go to McDonald's. They also ask for toys at the store and candy and .... and .... They're kids – they're going to ask for things. It's up to the parents to decide what they can have and when they can have it. If the child at the center of this lawsuit wants McDonald's and the mom doesn't want her to have it, THEN TELL THE CHILD NO!! Don't apologize, don't rationalize. It's OK to tell children "no." No family is perfect, but my goodness, let's not blame everyone else for our own problems.

    December 16, 2010 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Susan

    As a single mom, I have to tell you that it's sometimes hard to tell my kids no. I love them and want them to have the things they want and to be happy. However, I'm still "the mom." If I tell my kids no, they understand that I mean no. This mom may need some help raising her kids. She may need a better support network to help her. (I'm fortunate that I have very good friends and family to help when I need help.) But, she has to understand that she's still the parent in this situation. If she doesn't learn to tell her daughter "no" at this point in her life, she's going to have bigger problems later on.

    December 16, 2010 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. leciat

    the "Center for Science in the Public Interest" .....scary scary scary

    December 16, 2010 at 06:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. oldstyle00

    I agree with most of the people on this thread this lawsuit is a joke and needs to be thrown out. Of course happy meals are marketed towards children how about you be a parent and tell your children no. I would hate to see how her children act while in a place like walmart going past the toy section. You don't give in to every thing your child wants jesus. I went to the CSPI website and read through the lawsuit and information it is ridiculous. I love how they point out the calories, sodium, and fat in the happy meal are over 2/3 of a sedentary 4-8 year old should be in a day. When you are 4-8 years old you shouldn't be considered sedentary children need to be act thats the other half of the problem. Be involved in your childs life they shouldn't be parked in front of the tv watching McDonalds commercials all day. This woman needs to start teaching her children why they shouldn't be eating McDonalds everyday instead of just saying no try explaining why.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:06 | Report abuse | Reply
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