Would You like a Parenting Class with that Happy Meal?

December 16, 2010

By Ricardo Carvajal

A class action lawsuit has been filed in California alleging that the McDonald’s Corporation engages “in the unfair, unlawful, deceptive and fraudulent practice of promoting and advertising McDonald’s Happy Meal products to very young California children, using the inducement of various toys.”  The Center for Science in the Public Interest ("CSPI") is representing the named plaintiff as a non-profit law firm, thus making good on its threat of legal action if McDonald’s didn’t stop using toys in its marketing.  In the words of the complaint:

  • McDonald’s exploits very young California children and harms their health by advertising unhealthy Happy Meals with toys directly to them. Children eight years old and younger do not have the cognitive skills and the developmental maturity to understand the persuasive intent of marketing and advertising.
  • Children nonetheless influence the purchasing decisions of their parents. McDonald’s exploits that influence, by bombarding children with advertisements for Happy Meals with toys, knowing that it will result in kids nagging parents to purchase nutritionally poor Happy Meals for their children.
  • These marketing practices are unfair to parents as well as their children because they interfere with the parents’ ability to instill good eating habits in their children and because they cause conflict between parents and their children.
  • McDonald’s is engaged in a highly sophisticated scheme to use the bait of toys to exploit children’s developmental immaturity and subvert parental authority.

No word yet on whether additional actions will be filed that target the use of playlands and clowns as child bait.

Correction: In our original posting, we referred to CSPI as a plaintiff.  CSPI is not a plaintiff, but rather is representing the named plaintiff as a non-profit law firm.

Categories: Foods