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. dumb

    This is stupid in son many ways.

    1) Have responsibility for your children. Say "no". It's easy. Let's practice. Say it with me. "no".
    2) Why McDonalds? Last time I checked there were quite a few "fast food" chains that offered toys in their kids meals.

    Can I sue the TV networks? I'm overweight because I watch too much TV. If they didn't have such good shows, I would be doing something else besides sitting on the couch watching TV.

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





    December 16, 2010 at 07:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Pyrofeline

    So what happened to PARENTING? I grew up with plenty of McD's ads and my parents had no problems saying "no" when I pleaded for a Happy Meal. We'd get them occasionally as a treat, not as a regular meal choice. So, if McD's "is putting ideas into her kids' heads" what about the cereal makers, toy makers, etc which ALSO market to kids???? Govm't should not be making business decisions, our pocketbooks should!

    Besides, kids can be easily swayed. Trust me, my parents did it to me and I've distracted nieces/nephews and others in my care when they would want something I wasn't going to give them. It's not hard to say NO and provide alternatives.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Sleepy but still alert

    "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."


    "Tobacco companies don't go after 3 year-olds. Neither does Coca Cola..."


    Please. I'm half asleep, and I noticed this immediately.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Josh

    I course we all are smart enough to watch a McD's commercial, and dismiss most of what they say and show as DOWN AND OUT LIES (ie, time from walking in, to sitting at your table with food in under 10 seconds? Not at any McD's I have ever been to). Quick service? Everyone is fit and trim after eating? Always an empty table? Always an open parking space, right up front, for that matter.

    However, do Kids really understand that the image McD's is showing in their commercials is all FANTASY? And is McD's intentionally exploiting that fact? IMHO, that is the root or key issue here.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pyrofeline

      But again, that's where Parents come in and say "no".

      December 16, 2010 at 07:19 | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      But again, why should a parent have to?

      If my neighbor was offering my kid candy, yea, I could as parent tell my kid "no", but I would still have a little chat with my neighbor making it clear that they must stop offering my kid candy (or anything).

      December 16, 2010 at 08:04 | Report abuse |
    • Pyrofeline

      A neighbor offering your kids candy is not the same as McDonald's advertising.

      The fact that some parents can't say no shouldn't mean that I'm not able to give my kids a treat once in a while. We are bombarded by ads every single day. Why can't it be used as a tool instead to teach that yes, we are having stuff shoved in our faces, but that doesn't mean that we need it.

      December 16, 2010 at 08:39 | Report abuse |
  6. Sadaski

    sorry but you cant sue mcdonald's because you dont know how to control your kid. mcdonalds isnt doing anything wrong. you gave your kids too much control over what they eat and dont eat... now theyre running wild with it and youre looking for an easy way out so you try to sue mcdonalds. classic case of parents not taking responsibility for their actions smh...

    December 16, 2010 at 07:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Duane

      The woman is suing the wrong organization. She should be suing the education system for not teaching her to take self-responsibility in life. She should also be suing ALCU and the government for allowing people to think they do not need to take any kind of responsibility for their own actions.

      December 16, 2010 at 07:55 | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Of course as parent you could say "no". And "no' again. And "no" yet again. And so on.

      But why should you have to? McD's is intentionally DEFYING and CHALLENGING your authority over your kid, and REFUSING TO STOP. In other words, yea, you told your kid "no", but McD refuses to accept your authority in this matter, and continues to attempt to get your kid to do what McD wants.

      December 16, 2010 at 08:10 | Report abuse |
    • Pyrofeline

      McD's is not defying or challenging your autorhity, they're advertising!!! Are the toy companies defying or challenging your authority when they advertise a toy that your kid wants but you won't buy them??? No, they're advertising. It's up to YOU to make the decision to purchase as you are the parent and you have the means to purchase said items be it a toy or food.

      Kids badger, it's what they do, I did it, my kids will do it and their kids will do it. If you don't want to deal with it, don't have kids.

      December 16, 2010 at 08:46 | Report abuse |
  7. Sensible_Centrist

    This is a textbook example of a frivolous lawsuit.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Joe

    what gets me we put false hopes in kids with Santa, Easter Bunny, tooth fairy, but god forbid they enjoy some good junk food with out someone making a stink about it..

    December 16, 2010 at 07:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Dave

    lol, get over it lady. A lot of fast food chains have kids toys. Most parents get by just fine without blaming restaurants for their kids' behavioural issues. Maybe McDonald's isn't the problem...

    December 16, 2010 at 07:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Bosco 56

    "Parham, a 41-year old state employee, says her kids repeatedly ask for Happy Meals, mainly for the toys." That's why you're the parent...just like Nancy Reagan used to say, Just Say No, you idiot! I swear, some people just shouldn't be allowed to breed.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. thalv

    God forbid a parent actually be a parent and say no to their kids from time to time. This is so stupid. Get over it lady.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Edward

    When I read a story like this, I look to what's behind it. In this case, besides the parent's obviously flimsy complaint, it is the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    Google CSPI and you will find this organization puts out a lot of publicity about how wonderful they are, BUT there are refutations that they make up facts, distort information and do not follow accurate scientific principles.

    I'd like to see some investigation into the CSPI and why they are supporting what is obviously a frivolous lawsuit.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Russ40

    This has to be the dummest thing I have ever heard... You kno what Im going to take Chevrolet to court becuase they have gotten in my head and have made me want to buy a new Camaro. Thats it. It is not my fault its there fault for the pain and suffering my wife has to go thru and tell me NO. It is so rough on her to tell me NO. LOL. what in the world has this come to. I hope MD counter sues her for court cost on the grounds of being stupid.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Liz

    Poor lady....she needs a parenting class from me....it's easy.

    All you do is bend down and smile at your child...hold their hands and say "I love you but read my lips....NO!' I do it all the time...and my kids are fine. LOL!!! Get a life lady...seriously...get a life and a backbone. Good luck when your kids are going to be teenagers....or better yet....just order your Paxil in bulk..

    December 16, 2010 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      And after you sit down with your kids, McD comes back and tells your kids to NOT LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS.

      Don't you, as a parent, have the right and responsibility to turn around to McD and tell them to STOP encouraging your kid to ignore your "no"?

      December 16, 2010 at 08:13 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      if you are a good parent they dont under mind you.

      December 16, 2010 at 09:27 | Report abuse |
  15. Dick H

    When you can't parent you have to have someone to blame..

    December 16, 2010 at 07:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. David

    As soon as they lose this law suit, I think the tax payers should file a class action against this lady and the group helping her for a refund of the tax payer dollars they are wasting plus damages. Wait a minute, I forgot that this was California, home of the countries most intrusive judges who think it is a government right to run our families.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Erol

    This is just ridiculous! One more example of our freedom eroding away! This lady should just say NO from time to time to her kids. That's what the rest of us do. The power to do so should be in our hands, not the government's.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. John

    well while we are opening retarded lawsuits lets sue the military for lueing our children into war and killing by giving them dreams of a higher education... or lets take the smarter route and learn how to be good parents and stop blameing everyone else for your problems

    December 16, 2010 at 07:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mac

      @John – "opening retarded lawsuits..." Can you not find a better word than the "R" word?? Takes all the emphasis AWAY from the point of your comment...whatever it is (I stopped reading at the "R" word".

      December 16, 2010 at 08:15 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      mac sounds like you have a serious problem if you can take offense to a comment on a message board.

      December 16, 2010 at 09:29 | Report abuse |
  19. Luke

    Would this stupid woman essentially have to be at McDonalds before this actually becomes an issue. Surely the kids are not just at her 24/7 at home at school thinking about happy meals. If the issue only happens when she walks in the door of McDonalds then hmm maybe go somewhere else?? Does this woman even know the nutritional value of the food. She thinks a Cheese Burger and Fries is bad?? In moderation and part of a balanced diet no. Just as a Salad is no better covered in Ranch and cheese. This lady is worthless and just trying to get a buck. I am not a native American and there are many things I love over here that are so user pays and you are accountable for your actions, however these frivilous lawsuits that are allowed are crazy. I also know it is certainly not the majority that supports these also it is these minorities that ruin it for everyone!!

    December 16, 2010 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Duane

    I think I need to sue this woman for being irresponsiblie on raising her children. Society will have to provide discpline to her children in the future.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Christian

    It's not McDonalds job to tell your kids what they can & can't have, that's your job. Be a parent & raise your own kids

    December 16, 2010 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Mar

    Honestly this is riduculous, why can't you just tell your children no to fast food, my parents did. I think she should sue herself for being so weak and giving into her kids demands.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. John Q Public

    How can someone sue McDonald's for being lazy? Just because she is too lazy to cook her family a home-cooked meal, she needs someone to put the blame on. Honestly thats just sad! I want to sue the AXE body spray commercials because girls aren't immediately swooning over me when I spray their product, like they do in the commercials!!! I was under the impression that even dorks like myself can get hot chicks after a simple spray of a body cologne!! People need to take responsibility for their own actions!! Last thought: Maybe if she didn't let her children watch so much television and spent some one on one time with them, they would be less informed on whats inside of these happy meal boxes!!

    December 16, 2010 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. J

    This woman filing the lawsuit is nothing more than a puppet of a fascist nanny state in full development. This is pure insanity. War, terrorism, an economy on the ropes and these whackos are worried about fast food? They should be COMMITTED.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Dean

    Mom to kids..no, why mom? because I said so that's why!!! Done.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Allen

    I love happy meals and even though I am 45 years old I love all the toys and collect them. I have Darth Vader, R2D2 and all the little puzzles. To those who think something like this is a crime, then you should Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer because you all are the Burgermeister who banned toys.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. mrsleo80


    December 16, 2010 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Shilo

    in my opinion i think the toys in a happy meal are a good thing. honestly they have been around for a long time and some of the toys have become collectors items. and if you cant handle your kids pestering you about one thing then you shouldnt have any kids at all cause what is she going to do when her kids see a an ad for a new toy on the TV and they really want it then lets say your son or daughter has a friend they spend time with after school and that friends parents just bought them that new toy your child has been seeing on TV and now your child wants one too. are you going to sue that company just because your child is going to pester you till you get it. i would hope not thats just greedy if u ask me. so what some food services offer toys with the meal if you want to practice good parenting tell the child they have to order a health food item with the meal and they have to eat everything before they can take it out of the plastic. and dont give the excuse "well i dont have the chance to get the toy out of the box before they get it". that is a huge load of BS because it has to go through your window to your hands before your child gets the box. so if your too lazy to get the toy out before you hand them the box you have no right to sue anyone moron.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Tyler

    I wonder how some people like this come up with these dumb lawsuits. Hmm... How do I make my kids quit bugging me? Oh instead of being a good parent and taking some accountability with my children i'll just sue McDonald's till they quit selling Happy Meals...Way to go. I bet your kids love you now mom.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Brendan

    Another absolutely pathetic lawsuit over another stupid issue. Come on people! Honestly if you are the parent and you don't want a child to eat happy meals… don't let them! Parents are the problem not McDonald's. I don't let my kids eat fast food and that's that. Take responsibility for your kids. It's just another opportunity for greedy money grabbing individuals to make a quick buck.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. JE

    Seriously......Seriously? Since when have we just stopped taking any personal responsiblity at all? Are you telling me this women has so little control over her children that she can't tell them "NO". If that is the case, my only hope is that the childrens' next request is for their mom to go jump off a bridge.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Chaz

    Parenting 101: TEACH your children the difference between what is proper and a plastic toy from China.

    Also don't set the example of using BS lawsuits to try to get money, your kids will grow up thinking the world owes them a favor and we the working tax payers will have to support them.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Sue P

    This woman is an IDIOT!! What an absolute fool.....she is a 41 year old woman who has absolutely no control over her life. Obviously if she can't manage her children as this young age there is no hope for her or her children. If you don't want to associate with McDonals you need to tell your children...NO....sit down....shut up....in a tactful loving way of course. This whole thing just BOILS my blood...how ridiculous could you possible get.....GET A GRIP LADY!!

    December 16, 2010 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Missy PA

      This lawsuit makes your blood boil? You sound like the perfect consumer that McDonald's counts on to continue to make those profits GROW!!!

      December 16, 2010 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
  34. Amanda

    If you dont want your child to eat unhealthy food then DONT EAT THERE! get them another toy...

    December 16, 2010 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Tony

    Hey, lady...you can buy the toy without buying the meal, and you can buy the contents of the meal without buying the toy. The 'Happy Meal' is just a package concept. Get over yourself. Boil your kids some vegetables, burn your TV, and shut the %&#$ up.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SoDak

      I love that last line Tony, Boil some vegetables, burn your TV and shut up....classic and well put.

      December 30, 2010 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
  36. Marty

    It takes a village to raise kids. Why should parents have to reckon with companies whose entire purpose is to sell their kids bad food? HIgh salt, high sugar, high fat absolute garbage. Worse than cigarettes. Highly processed nutritionally dead food. What good does it do a beautiful growing child to eat bad food from a giant corporation who gets rich off the transaction? What good does it do a family? America? What good does it do any of us? Why would anyone defend McDonald's? There are plenty of local hamburger stands we visit, and the kids love them. They don't give our kids toys... and my kids love these places but they don't obsess over them or throw tantrums to go to them. These businesses don't give our kids toys, either. And the purveyors aren't getting stupid, filthy disgustingly rich of the transaction. The purveyors aren't blasting the airwaves w/ ads luring kids in for BAD FOOD.

    This is about respect. Get this all of you middle class people: McDonald's has no respect for you or your family. They don't give a damn about your health, or the quality of your life. PERIOD. They are an ATM MACHINE that makes a few people extremely rich – and millions of other people sick, tired, fat and unhappy. It is BAD FOOD and why anyone would defend them is beyond me. If they disappeared tomorrow the world would be a better place.

    Who trusts a clown anyway? Wake up folks.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sadaski

      wow? its not even about the food. how is mcdonalds wrong for running a business? you dont have to buy everything that's advertised... thats a choice you make. parents must take responsibility for their kids livelihood instead of being lazy and blaming companies for their inadequacies as a parent. you wanna send a message to mcdonalds? STOP GOING THERE.

      December 16, 2010 at 08:01 | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      Bluntly said but honest. This is Pro-choice option in our free market enterprise. USA is geared around marketing behavior and choices. MBA programs abound to teach how to market products and services. No one is pointing a gun to our heads telling us to eat poorly. One can eat hormone beef that is designed to put fat on mammals quickly, or eat organic beef with no fat building hormones or even not eat meat at all. The choice is ours to make. If we are so weak to cave into slick marketing programs – Heaven help us. North Korea will conquer us.

      December 16, 2010 at 08:06 | Report abuse |
    • John Q Public

      You clearly contradict yourself in your statement. You state that you take your kids to other establishments, well don't you think that this woman has that same option! I don't think that anyone is defending mcdonalds or their quality of food, their making statements on the ignorance of this individual that can't grasp control of her own children. When my child asks me to go to mcdonalds I simply say no and we move on with our lives... Why do you think that is Marty, maybe because my child has been instilled with some discipline (at 4 years old), something that is obviously lacking in this womans household.

      December 16, 2010 at 08:06 | Report abuse |
    • Missy PA

      Well said Marty. McDonald's seems to have more of a cult-like effect on our society than most people realize...too bad.

      December 16, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
  37. Unbelievable

    Please. How about being an adult, a parent, and telling your child NO- better yet, dont even take them in to Mcdonalds. Isnt that dangling unhealthy food infront of them anyways,just by walking in the door? Please lady, be responsible for your kids. Dont blame their greed on Mcdonalds or anyone else.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Brad

    The BEST McDonalds can say about their own product "right-sized food choices for their children that can fit into a balanced diet."

    A Raw stick of butter can also fit into a "ballanced diet" if you only eat it once a decade.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Rosie3

    What a Nut!

    December 16, 2010 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Stephen

    This group got K-Fried to stop using an artery clogging (cheaper) oil so they can't be all bad. When mega-corps like MickD's are all about profit above anything else, watchdog organizations have their place. Personally, I think they should start doing Handgun Meals – they'd be hugely popular with adults.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Mac

    @John – "opening retarded lawsuits..." Can you not find a better word that the "R" word?? Takes all the emphasis AWAY from the point of your comment...whatever it is.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. joe

    Give me a break. McDonalds should sue Monet Parham for being just plain stupid. These parents that are for this law suit need to grow a back bone. Seriously. My kids grew up in the Happy Meal days when they had Beanie Badies in them. Mom/Dad can we go and get a Beanie Baby at McDonalds. No honey. Why. Because I said no. I've never seen an ad for McDonalds that says that any kid HAS to have this toy. This "mom" says it's unfair that her child overwhelms her with requests. Uh. Sounds to me like the kid is running that house. Grow up mom!

    December 16, 2010 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. douglas


    December 16, 2010 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. WakeUpPeopleCT

    Imagine McDonald's marketing a Happy Meal to kids! The Horror!!! Gee, and I thought only 90 year old grandmothers ordered them.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Parent

    I think they should take the money they will probably win from this frivolous suit and give it to her to take parenting classes because she obvsously can't do it herself.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. The Old Wolf

    So many wise comments about this bit of silliness. Yes, advertising is by nature deceptive, misleading and underhanded; it's all about getting your money. People, however, are at choice about what they bring into their homes in the way of media, and how they structure their family's boundaries. The problem as I see it is that California has 4,502 lawyers per capita, all of them hungry for billable hours. It would take me 10 minutes to find a California attorney (although no other state is exempt) willing to file a class action suit against wolverines who bite after being poked repeatedly with a stick.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John Q Public

      OLD WOLF, you've hit the nail on the head!

      December 16, 2010 at 08:08 | Report abuse |
  47. Laura

    GIVE ME A BREAK!!! what is wrong witht that woman?? Hello?! Don't take your bratty kids to McDonald's if you can't say no to them. What an absolute waste of the justice system.

    December 16, 2010 at 07:59 | Report abuse | Reply


    December 16, 2010 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Rob

    As the parent of 2 small children I really can sympathize with the whole "Can we go to McDonald's" thing. I probably pass 7 or 8 of the fastfood joints on the commute from school and the office. Part of being a parent is saying no and setting boundaries. If you can not tell your kids no, they can't eat a Happy Meal everyday, then frankly, your shouldn't have kids. And my kids usually go there as a treat. They love the apple fries and a juice. A cheeseburger or some chicken nuggets will not kill them. I think whoever the judge is in this case should call DCF and ask them to see if this woman is fit to be a parent.

    December 16, 2010 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. calvin

    This has to be a joke. Nothing much can be said. This person deserves the "Worst Parent Of The Year Award".

    December 16, 2010 at 08:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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