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

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs