News / USA

Consumer Watchdog Group Sues McDonald's Over Children's Meals

A U.S. nutrition watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against the giant American fast-food chain McDonald's for including toys in its children's menu. The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest believes it is illegal to use toys to entice children to eat fast food. The suit comes amid reports of rising obesity rates worldwide, and raises questions about corporate responsibility and parental control.

McDonald's calls it a "Happy Meal." The usual menu includes a hamburger or deep-fried chicken nuggets, French fries, and a soda. There are healthier options, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, says the meals contain amounts of calories, fat, sugar and sodium that are unhealthy for young children.  

But that is not why the Washington-based activist group is suing. The case is about the little plastic toys that come packaged inside every Happy Meal.  

Ads for a recent meal featuring characters from the movie "Shrek" caught the attention of Monet Parham, a health educator in the state of California. Or, rather, they caught the attention of her six-year-old daughter, who, Parham says, pleaded with her to collect all the toys.

"I explained to her that the characters in the meals change every week. And she, of course, followed with the logical question, even for a six-year-old, which is, 'Well, mommy, then can I get a Happy Meal every week?,'" Parham said.

Parham said no because she thinks the fast-food meals are unhealthful and only stops at McDonald's occasionally. But, as any parent knows, that was not the end of it. Her daughter kept on asking.

CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson says McDonald's is deliberately targeting young children because the company knows the influence children have over their parents. He quotes the author of a recent article in a fast-food industry trade publication.

"'The average kid asks his parent for something nine times before the parent gives in. What's a mother to do under this assault?' That was the former advertising director of McDonalds. They know what they're doing," Jacobson said.

But Jacobson says young children don't know when someone is trying to sell them something. That's illegal because, as CSPI asserts in its lawsuit, "Advertising that is not understood to be advertising is inherently deceptive."

So, with the group's backing, Parham is suing McDonald's under California consumer-protection laws. "As a parent, I'd really like to make food choices with my children free from the persuasion that comes with the inclusion of toys. I want McDonald's to be a responsible corporate partner and stop including the toys with their children's meals," she said.

But forcing McDonald's to stop giving away toys is the wrong answer to children's pestering, says Patrick Basham director of the Democracy Institute, a policy research center in Washington, DC.

"The solution lies with the parents exerting some kind of discipline and control over their children, rather than the government, for example, or the legal system deciding what children can and cannot do or what they can and cannot be exposed to," Basham.

But even if you disagree with him on that point, Basham says, "There's the small problem of the evidence. And by that I mean, there is no reliable evidence that kids who go to McDonalds or Burger King or have junk food a few times a week have a great[er] propensity for a weight problem than do kids who don't," he said.

For its part, McDonald's says in a written statement, quote, "parents understand and appreciate that Happy Meals are a fun treat, with right-sized food choices for their children that can fit into a balanced diet."

The company says it is proud of its Happy Meals and intends to vigorously defend its brand, its reputation and its food.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs