California mom sues McDonald's over Happy Meals

Jodi - posted on 12/15/2010 ( 502 moms have responded )

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LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A mother-of-two from California launched a class-action lawsuit against McDonald's, claiming the toys given out with Happy Meals unfairly lure kids into eating unhealthy food.

Monet Parham is spearheading the suit backed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), aimed at stopping the fast-food giant's use of toys in marketing aimed directly at small children.

The CSPI says such marketing illegally exploits children. Parham says the main reason her six-year-old daughter, Maya, asks to go to McDonald's is to get toys based on Barbie, i-Carly, Shrek, or Strawberry Shortcake.

"I am concerned about the health of my children and feel that McDonald's should be a very limited part of their diet and their childhood experience," said Parham, from Sacramento.

"But as other busy, working moms and dads know, we have to say 'no' to our young children 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."

The CSPI cited the Institute of Medicine and the American Psychological Association as saying that "kids as young as Maya do not have the cognitive maturity to understand the persuasive intent of advertising."

"Every time McDonald's markets a Happy Meal directly to a young child, it exploits a child's developmental vulnerability and violates several states' consumer protection laws," said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner.

McDonald's said it would defend itself against the lawsuit, which Parham and the CSPI said they were filing in the California Superior Court in San Francisco.

"We are proud of our Happy Meals and intend to vigorously defend our brand," spokeswoman Bridget Coffing told the LA Times newspaper, adding that Happy Meals offer quality foods in smaller portions appropriate for children.

"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," she added.

The action came after San Francisco last month agreed to ban promotional toys served with food that doesn't meet strict nutritional standards, following a similar move in nearby Santa Clarita in April.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/-/world...

Thoughts? Do you REALLY think we should blame the toys? Or should we be blaming the parents who don't say no? Do we need to be more responsible for our choices as parents? What is your take on this lawsuit?

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Mary - posted on 12/17/2010

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Ugh, we've had this debate before about the legality and ethics of marketing to children, and it always seems to spin in never-ending circles.

I'm not questioning the motives behind the toy in the happy meal. Any reasonably intelligent person understands that McD's is a business, and they are all about increasing their profits through whatever means they can devise. Are they making a parent's life harder? Perhaps, but then again, I don't believe they have a responsibility to parents to avoid making their product less appealing.

This woman's arguments are (to me) just outright silly and lame:
" But as other busy, working moms and dads know, we have to say 'no' to our young children so many times, and McDonald's makes that so much harder to do."

Boo-fucking-hoo. Yes, it IS hard to say no. Parenting is not an easy job. Good parenting is often harder. Expecting the world around you to make your job easier is just foolish and unrealistic.

Lady, I hate to break it to you, but all kinds of bad people are going to "try to get in your kid's head without your permission". The world is full of pedophiles, drug dealers, and that "cool" kid down the street who is smoking and drinking at 12. If you haven't taught your kid from the beginning that you have to say no even though something seems appealing, they are in for all kinds of trouble down the road.

[deleted account]

Completely ridiculous lawsuit.... that she will probably win.

Just say NO to your kids lady and if they are being 'brainwashed' by advertising.... limit their exposure to that advertising.

Jenny - posted on 12/19/2010

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I just can't wrap my head around putting higher priority on allowing a company to profit by any means neccessary over children's, well, lives. It just does not compute with me.

Petra - posted on 12/19/2010

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Holy fuck... the ingredients you guys are talking about are extremely common - you'll find them in chips, fruit snacks, yogurt, ice cream, chocolate... if McDonald's is a fucking bastard for not publishing a disclaimer, so is every other junk food/sweets manufacturer out there. Its called COMMON FUCKING SENSE. I do not want the government stepping in and saying Dudes, you are now required to note every-single-fucking-thing that may or may not be healthy in the food you sell, and the rest of you, you are now required by law to actually read the health information published about your food. If dumbfucks don't want to read the label, don't want to know what is in their food, but still want to eat it and feed it to their kids, and then wonder why their little chubsters are getting chubbier, THAT IS ON THEM. The parent who cries about their 5 year old with type II diabetes after feeding them nothing but empty, processed foods should not be able to sue someone else for their own stupidity and ignorance. Seriously, the law suit is based on McDonald's making it too hard to say no because of fucking tantrums. My kid is fat and unhealthy because I cave too easily to tantrums that my kid has been brainwashed to have, due to my having my child watch TV and frequent McDonald's. How the fuck is this not pointing the finger at someone else and evading all personal responsibility for exposing their kid to McDonald's and opening their wallet there frequently (and it would have to be very frequently, in order for for the gross lack of fitness to be blamed solely on McDonald's)? Let's blame Nintendo too, since they market their games to children and brainwash them to sit inside all day getting a thumb workout. Let's also blame Old Navy for making super comfortable sweat pants, perfect for lounging on the couch, eating snacks, and playing video games all day. Oh, and Disney, for making so many movies FOR CHILDREN, an activity that requires passive watching. If you want to plunk your kid down in front of the TV, let them be "brainwashed", and then take them to McDonald's but never question McDonald's ingredients or motives, that is up to you! Jesus, talk about enabling and encouraging ignorance and condoning the actions of people who absolutely will not accept personal responsibility for the choices they make.

Laura, way earlier you pleaded for us to think of the children. That is the parent's job, and if they are not up to the task where going or not going to McDonald's is concerned, it is the fault of no one but those parents. I do feel bad for those kids - little bebops are basically walking hedonists and if their parents don't make good choices on their behalf, they are going to happily accept the unhealthy alternative. It would be great if educational legislation were willing to advocate for these kids who don't have parents smart or motivated enough to know what should or should not go into their bodies, but this is the world we live in. People need to pull their heads out of their asses and stop acting on instant gratification. It is that simple. Pushing lawsuits like this only serves to endorse passing the buck when you personally make poor or dangerous choices. We are not going to get rid of McDonald's, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup or trans-fats. The health information about all of these things is readily available and often posted on the product itself. People need to learn what these things are, how they affect the body, and decide ON THEIR OWN whether or not they still want to eat that Big Mac. You sure as fuck can't cure stupid, but enabling it is not something I want to see be the norm.

Petra - posted on 12/18/2010

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While I definitely see Laura's point and I agree to an extent, I take issue with the form of the opposition. Another fucking lawsuit, worded such that its not our fault that our own ignorance led to a negative outcome, even though the information IS out there, is not a step in the right direction. A change in legislation based on unethical practices - hell yeah, I can get behind that. An opportunistic twat creating yet another legal precedent that demands that the government protect us from ourselves? This furthers the notion that we NEED government regulation in every aspect of our lives, simply because we are too fucking stupid to make sound choices on our own. I bought a cup of hot coffee and spilled it on myself, and dang, it burned. The answer? Lawsuit. Our kids are grossly unhealthy because we keep feeding them shit, which is only partially due to insidious, unethical marketing. The answer is not another lawsuit wherein personal responsibility is transferred to someone else - the answer is edu-fucking-cation. Laura knows what's up with marketing, a lot of us know what's in a happy meal - we can access the information ourselves, if we deign to, but because we don't, and we threaten our children's health because of it, we can still point the finger at someone else and profit from it. This only encourages passing the buck when we make bad choices and does NOT necessitate more careful or thoughtful parenting.

This conversation has been closed to further comments

502 Comments

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Amie - posted on 12/19/2010

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Alright, this thread has gone round and round and round.

Both parents and the corporations are to blame to a degree.

End of discussion.

I'm locking this now since it is getting out of control and going nowhere.

Amie
~ DM mod

Lacye - posted on 12/19/2010

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I think some one needs to shut this post down before it gets ugly.

C. - posted on 12/19/2010

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Excuse me? Knock a little sense into me?? OH.. Shit, Laura.. You just pissed off the wrong girl today. PMS plus nicotine fit plus SHEER STUPIDITY FROM OTHERS.. Goodbye.

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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because my whole point is that we need to protect children when their parents don't. That's it. That's all.

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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didn't say I was better than you...I said I know more about marketing and consumer psychology than you...there's a big difference.

And by saying it should be ONLY up to the parents and that the corporation holds NO responsibility, you are saying that innocent children whose parents are TOO STUPID AND LAZY to feed them right deserve to get type two diabetes, heart disease and die because of technicalities due to obesity!

C. - posted on 12/19/2010

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"well...since I've been to college to study it...and I've read countless text books that you have not...I think we all know who's right and who's wrong"



Oh, so you're better than me and always right? I think not. You're way over-thinking this entire thing. SUING someone when it's not the company's responsibility is RIDICULOUS! All it does is send out the message that no matter whose fault it is, suing someone is always the answer..



"here...let me try this again. Children with stupid lazy parents deserve to die. That's your basic point right?"



Oh my GOSH.. That's it.. If I don't come back, it's b/c I've beat my head against a brick wall so hard that I bled to death.. My God.. Ridiculous. You keep writing that same thing WHEN NO ONE HAS SAID IT. THEY HAVEN'T EVEN IMPLIED IT!!!!!!



Keep being ridiculous, go ahead.. Just keep going..

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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here...let me try this again. Children with stupid lazy parents deserve to die. That's your basic point right?

I really should type that out and save it so I can just keep putting it out there,

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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well...since I've been to college to study it...and I've read countless text books that you have not...I think we all know who's right and who's wrong

C. - posted on 12/19/2010

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And.. I think common sense is a LITTLE more common than some people think. The stupid ones that don't use it just want an excuse to be stupid.

C. - posted on 12/19/2010

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"The problem with the toy is that it activates the REWARD center of the child's mine which ALTERS the way they respond to junk food FOREVER!"

I DID read it, I just don't AGREE with it.

You can easily ask for a Happy Meal and NOT GET THE TOY. I REPEAT, you can ask for 'NO TOY'.

Ugh.. I swear I feel like beating my head on a brick wall until it bleeds. It will be better than reading this nonsense..

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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and I'll say it again, since you clearly didn't read it. The problem with the toy is that it activates the REWARD center of the child's mind which ALTERS the way they respond to junk food FOREVER!

Sandra - posted on 12/19/2010

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Unfortunately, common sense isn't actually common. It really should be called uncommon sense.

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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and yet...innocent children are dying...what is your solution (since hoping people will be good parents isn't working)

C. - posted on 12/19/2010

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@Jenny: "Lacye, while this thread is about Mcdonalds the reasoning is equally applicable to any form of junk food from Doritos to Mars bars to Pizza Pops. It is ALL harmful over the long term and should be labelled as such"

Um, seriously? I know that was directed at Lacye, but.. Junk food does not have to come with a warning label: 'Warning: Consuming this product in excess with lack of exercise will cause obesity!'

That just sounds stupid. IT'S COMMON SENSE! This is turning into the most ridiculous thread I have ever come across in the history of me being a member of DM. Common sense will tell you that sugar in excess is bad. High levels of sodium.. Bad. High levels of FAT.. Bad. Come on, now! You are underestimating the common sense of parents, or people in general. They KNOW, they just want to blame someone else for being FAT!

And the marketing thing.. Oh holy cow.. Anything that kids end up tasting and you could still claim the marketing is GEARED towards children. That's not always the case. It's geared towards people IN GENERAL.. Old, fat, young, skinny.. Doesn't matter. Common sense, people.. COMMON FREAKIN' SENSE! Ugh..

Sandra - posted on 12/19/2010

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"According to a recent CDC survey, in 2006, 24% of the nation's high schools and 19% of its middle schools offered on-site brand name fast foods."



My high school & middle school both offered Pizza Hut on campus in the cafeteria & outside at a "snack bar". Along with cup'o'noodles, hostess snacks, chips, and candy bars. And tons of soda. At least they can't sell the soda anymore.....



Edited to add: Shouldn't our children be learning at school? Offering them crap food isn't teaching them how to eat well and take care of themselves..... It's just counter-productive.

Lacye - posted on 12/19/2010

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I'm not even going to lie, I'm just not feeling up to reading all of that. LOL I've had a rough week with the flu and I am still not feeling all too peachy to sort through that.

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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and for those who don't bother to open links

McDonald's Marketing Focused On Children, New Report States

* By John Koshuta
NewsTarget, December 7, 2007
Straight to the Source

A new report released by Corporations and Health Watch, earlier this month, exposes the marketing tactics of McDonald's. According to the report entitled "McDonald's and Children's Health: The Production of New Customers, "the world's largest fast food chain uses cartoons, toys, schools, charities and even parents to reach its youngest customers.

Some highlights of the report include:

* A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that low income 3 to 5 year old children preferred the taste of hamburgers, chicken, French fries, carrots or low fat milk if they thought the products were from McDonald's, whether or not they actually were.

* According to its 2006 Annual Report, McDonald's is the leading global food service retailer with more than 30,000 local restaurants serving 52 million people in more than 100 countries each day. Its 2006 revenues were $21.6 billion, up 16% from 2004. In 2006, McDonald's spent almost $2.5 million a day on traditional advertising in the United States. About 40% of McDonald's total advertising budget is directed at children.

* A study of 9 to 10 year old Australian youth demonstrated that more than half believed that Ronald McDonald knew what was best for them to eat. An earlier version of the McDonald's children's website told young visitors Ronald was the "ultimate authority on everything" and they were encouraged to send Ronald an email telling him their favorite food items, their favorite sports team, favorite book and their name.

* McDonald's operates more than 8,000 playgrounds around the United States, more than any other private American corporation and far more than any municipality.

* In 2003, 20% of McDonald's meals sold were Happy Meals and they accounted for $3.5 billion in revenues. The fast food giant stands as one of the United State's largest distributors of toys.

* According to a recent CDC survey, in 2006, 24% of the nation's high schools and 19% of its middle schools offered on-site brand name fast foods.

* In 1998, 89% of children in the United States eight years of age or younger had visited a McDonald's at least once a month. In response to this information, R.J. Milano, a McDonald's Vice President stated that their goal for the following year was to reach 100%. He boasted "I'm going to own every kid transaction out there." To counter criticism that fast and junk foods contribute to obesity and other health problems, McDonald's recently launched a contest to recruit mothers for three day paid field trips where they will be given access to the farms "where our fresh ingredients are grown, to our world-class suppliers and to our restaurants.

Among the recommendations for solving the problems associated with this report, the Strategic Alliance, a coalition of nutrition and physical activity advocates in California, recommends that all marketing and advertising of junk and fast foods be eliminated for children and youth. The International Association of Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO) urges governments to restrict or ban all food advertisements to children and prohibit the marketing of soda, junk and fast foods in schools. The IACFO also points to the importance of global action on this issue, noting that restrictions in the developed world often send multinational corporations overseas to the global south where they market unhealthy products with greater ease.

Lacye - posted on 12/19/2010

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I'm not misunderstanding anything Laura. I never said I was either. In some ways I do agree with you, it's horrible. But I still believe you can't fully put all the blame on the businesses and their marketing.

Emma: I love Subway by the way. Healthy or not, that's my kryptonite. LOL

Jodi - posted on 12/19/2010

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@Layce

I understand what you are saying, that we can't control what people are buying to put in their cupboards at home. You are right. But restricting marketing will put less pressure on the lazy parents to buy the crap their kids beg them for.

Stifler's - posted on 12/19/2010

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While I don't think advertising is more of the problem here than people not knowing how to cook... I do think advertising on fast food should be cut down. Especially Subway ads late at night in places where there are 24/7 outlets. Oftentimes I've been pregnant and sitting around at 11PM after eating a whole dinner about 4 hours before and Subway ads come on every 5 minutes and make your tummy grumble!! If I was more ignorant on the 6 grams of fat deal I'd be getting in my car to go buy a foot long.

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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what are you not understanding? That's why it needs to be against the law. period.

Lacye - posted on 12/19/2010

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I hate to say it Laura, as long as there are children, that is exactly where the marketing is going to be pointed towards. As all of you have said before, they are more susceptible than adults are and if the kids whine enough, then the parents are going to give them what they want.

Lacye - posted on 12/19/2010

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I was just emphasizing my point. God I hate typing on here sometimes. LOL. you don't ever get the point across as well.

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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Lacye...we don't want fast food banned! just predatory marketing to children

Jodi - posted on 12/19/2010

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There is a medium between outlawing a food chain, and putting restrictions on marketing.

Lacye - posted on 12/19/2010

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no you don't. but it's food. a necessity. The government isn't going to come into a person's home and say "this isn't healthy. You can't have this". It's personal invasion.

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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and we're not asking to have the restaurants BANNED...I LOVE big macs...I just want to change the way they are allowed to market to children

Lacye - posted on 12/19/2010

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You don't need cigarettes or alcohol. that is a want not a need. but you need food. They aren't going to outlaw a food chain.

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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and marketing cigarettes and alcohol to children IS illegal...they DID something about it...it's not ridiculous to hope that they will expand the laws to protect children from ALL predatory marketing

Jodi - posted on 12/19/2010

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And you don't know they won't do anything. Australia has codes addressing predatory marketing to children. They aren't perfect, but they do address some of the issues. It's not a pipe dream.

Lacye - posted on 12/19/2010

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Well then by all means force the government to take the kids away. Send them to foster homes. Yeah that's a much better alternative. I'm not saying what the businesses are doing is right. It's not, but this has been going on since the first time a man traded another man something. It's not going away. Why sit here and bitch about it when there's nothing the government is going to do about it because they are making money off of it too! Same with alcohol and cigarettes. They are making the money too! It will never change.

Jodi - posted on 12/19/2010

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Lacye, how many ways do we have to point out that these parents are stupid and lazy, they don't have the brains to educate themselves. The point has also been made that no-one is "blaming" the corporations. It IS the fault of the parents. BUT stupid is stupid is stupid. Laws are there to protect people from their own stupidity. For us, it may be common sense. But common sense is not so common.

Jenny - posted on 12/19/2010

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For one very good reason IT'S NOT WORKING. Children are dying prematurely. Obesity is one of the main killers out there. Many parents cannot handle the responsibilty are quite simply sucking at it. We are punishing the kids for the rest of their lives for the mistakes of idiot parents. That is immoral to me. We, as a society, can do better than that.



I'm talking about labelling products, that's all. Not banning, not restricting access. Just not allowing predatory marketing and forcing them to be forthright about the harmful effects of their products.

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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we'll start by advertising cigarettes in text books, we'll use them to help counting oooh...or pay doctors to make commercials for them like the good ole days

Isobel - posted on 12/19/2010

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so we should repeal ALL the laws that are in place to protect children AND consumers from unfair business practices then? wow...that would be turning back the clock hundreds of years.

Lacye - posted on 12/19/2010

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Then the parents should have educated themselves better. That's what I've been saying all along. Why blame a company that is doing what it is supposed to do, get you to buy their stuff so they can make money. It's not their responsibility to stop kids from buying their products. It's the parents.

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