News / USA

    McDonald's Faces Possible Lawsuit Over Fast-Food Marketing to Kids

    Nutrition watchdog group slams use of toys to sell fast-food to children

    Multimedia

    Audio

    A nutrition watchdog group is threatening to sue McDonald's, the giant U.S. restaurant chain, for using toys to sell its fast-food meals to children.

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the popular toys illegally lure children into eating habits that threaten their health.

    A nutrition watchdog group says McDonald's has 30 days to change its ways, or CSPI will take the fast-food giant to court.
    A nutrition watchdog group says McDonald's has 30 days to change its ways, or CSPI will take the fast-food giant to court.

    Happy meal

    Since 1979, every McDonald's "Happy Meal" for children has included an enticing toy along with the food, from Star Wars action figures to Hello Kitty watches.

    The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, notes that a 2005 report from the U.S. Institute of Medicine found that marketing to children makes them more likely to ask for and eat unhealthful foods.

    Nearly one in five children in the United States is obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means more kids are developing diabetes and are at higher risk of heart disease and other health problems.

    CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson says it's wrong to tempt kids with toys.

    "The very practice of dangling a toy or other premium to get kids to pester their parents to go into the restaurant and buy food, junky or nutritious, is unethical and, we believe, illegal."

    Questionable nutrition

    And the food is more often junky than nutritious, Jacobson adds. All of the 24 Happy Meal choices have more than a third of a child's recommended daily calorie intake.

    A Happy Meal that includes a cheeseburger, French fries, and a soda contains half a day's worth of calories and saturated fat, along with nearly a day's worth of sodium, and two day's worth of sugar.

    CSPI is threatening to sue under consumer protection laws in several states. Lead attorney Stephen Gardner says he's confident he can face a jury and ask three questions:

    "Is it unfair for McDonald's to bypass parents and market direct[ly] to little children? Is it wrong for McDonald's to trick little kids into nagging their parents to buy the Happy Meals? And does McDonald's practice hurt little kids? The jury would come back yes, yes, and yes."

    McDonald's responds

    In a written response, McDonald's spokesman William Whitman says he couldn't disagree more with CSPI.

    The toy is just part of a fun, family experience, he says, and Happy Meals offer more healthful choices than ever, including low-fat milk instead of soda and apple slices instead of French fries.

    The company sold nearly 120 million liters of milk in the past year, he says, and more than 100 million Happy Meals with Apple Dippers since 2008.

    The statement doesn't say what McDonald's plans to do about CSPI's threatened lawsuit, and a spokeswoman wouldn't elaborate in emails.

    It's not the first time CSPI has threatened legal action against junk food makers -- and the strategy has worked before.

    The makers of sugary breakfast cereals changed how they market to children, and the fast-food chicken dinner chain KFC stopped frying its food in artery-clogging, high-trans-fat oils after the group threatened to sue.

    CSPI says McDonald's has 30 days to change its ways, or the group will go to court.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora