McDonald’s grimaces at Happy Meal lawsuit

By Reuters
Posted yesterday at 6:29 a.m.

A lawsuit that seeks to stop McDonald’s from selling Happy Meals should be dismissed because parents can always prohibit their children from consuming the food, the hamburger giant said in a court filing on Monday.

The lawsuit claims McDonald’s unfairly uses toys to lure children into its restaurants. The plaintiff, Monet Parham — a Sacramento, Calif. mother of two — claims the company’s advertising violates California consumer protection laws.

The Happy Meal has been a huge hit for McDonald’s — making the company one of the world’s largest toy distributors — and spawning me-too offerings at most other fast-food chains.

But lately it also has come under fire from public health officials, parents and lawmakers who are frustrated with rising childhood obesity rates and weak anti-obesity efforts from restaurant operators, which are largely self-regulated.

Parham, who filed suit last December, is represented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group.

In the lawsuit, Parham admits she frequently tells her children “no” when they ask for Happy Meals, McDonald’s said in a court filing late on Monday.

“She was not misled by any advertising, nor did she rely on any information from McDonald’s,” the company said.

Should Parham’s lawsuit be allowed, it would spawn a host of other problematic legal proceedings, McDonald’s said.

“In short, advertising to children any product that a child asks for but the parent does not want to buy would constitute an unfair trade practice,” the company said.

Attorneys for Parham did not immediately respond to a request for comment late on Monday.

The proposed class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is Parham v. McDonald’s Corporation et al, 11-511.



  1. Shir0 Yesterday at 7:33 a.m.

    This woman is an idiot, this article is worthless.

  2. genxandy Yesterday at 7:34 a.m.

    This is so ridiculous! If she can go forth with her lawsuit with McDonald’s for this then people should be able to sue restaurants in general for their oversized portions which definitely leads to obesity because people don’t know when to stop and take the rest home with them. A toy in a Happy Meal does not constitute an unfair trade practice. How about cereals with toy collectables in them? Are they next? What is America coming to?

  3. JerryH Yesterday at 8:14 a.m.

    I hope the judge hearing this case throws it out and sanctions the lawyer who filed this ridiculous piece of garbage. I generally don’t like the “British system,” whereby the loser in a lawsuit pays the legal fees of the winner, but ludicrous lawsuits like these make me wonder whether it might be necessary.

  4. darcy Yesterday at 8:40 a.m.

    No. I am completely against government interference in what should be a parental decision. It is one thing in the school lunch room to ban junk food because given the choice a child will opt for the candy or pizza. But no child gets into the car and drives to McDonalds themselves. Furthermore, McDonalds lists their ingredients and nutritional content so that the consumer can make an informed choice. No. No government telling us what we can and cannot eat. First it will be McDonalds (and Burger King and Wendy’s and all the other fast food places that offer toys) and then cereal manufacturers and then … If the parent can’t say no than that’s their and the child’s problem. Besides, a Happy Meal can be chicken, apples and milk.

  5. TRS Yesterday at 8:57 a.m.

    How about this, be responsible for your own choices. If you do not want your kid to eat a happy meal don’t allow it.

  6. Mario Mims Yesterday at 9:14 a.m.

    Monet Parham needs to get a life and the public health people should not
    piggy-back their concerns on Monet’s suit. Monet if you don’t want your
    children to eat at McDonalds, fine, take them to another restaurent.
    Don’t muddy the water for everyone else who might like what McDonalds
    serves because you have a personal vendetta against them.

  7. Napper Tandy Yesterday at 9:16 a.m.

    Maybe the legislators should enact lawas that prevent these minor children from driving themselves to McDonald’s, and from taking jobs to earn money to purchase the Happy Meals.

    Or, maybe the lazy parents should balance their children’s diets with nutrition and treat McDonald’s like an occassional treat, and then have them exercise on a regular basis.

    But no, let’s just take the easy, dramatic approach by demonizing one of the country’s most successful international corporations. I guess Coca Cola, television manufacturers, cable/dish providers, internet providers, laptop producers, and games manufacturers should also be shut down. Geniuses.

  8. dave Yesterday at 9:20 a.m.

    McD’s was around when I was growing up and childhood obesity wasn’t a huge problem then, so you can hardly blame the Golden Arches. My friends and I ate there constantly. I was eating Bic Macs and fries and washing it down with a coke. I was as thin as a rail. As for Happy Meals, I ate those too and I wasn’t lured in by the toys.

    I suspect the difference between then and now is that kids growing up 20+ years ago were living more active lifestyles. Can’t blame a restaurant for that.

  9. Big Brother Yesterday at 9:31 a.m.

    Ms. Parham, good luck and I’m routing for your legal victory! Then I can proceed with my own lawsuit against Ferrari. My daughter kept pestering me to buy her a new Ferrari for her sixteenth birthday, and although I knew I couldn’t afford it, she pestered me so much I wasn’t able to say no. Now I want to sue Ferrari for charging too much for their auto because I’m hopelessly in debt. Isn’t life grand living in an era where nobody needs to assume responsibility for their own stupidity?

  10. RAK Yesterday at 9:42 a.m.

    There is a reason why McD’s has a playland, let your fat a.. kids run around for a while after YOU BUY THEM a so-called unhealthy meal.

  11. Andy - Chicago Yesterday at 10:37 a.m.

    Maybe we should all just turn our kids over to be wards of the state, with periodic visitation rights. Give me a freaking break, this is getting ridiculous!!!

  12. CGull Yesterday at 11:21 a.m.

    Maybe McDonald’s should retaliate and introduce The Angry Meal.

    Instead of a toy, you get a color 3D card of a scowling Michelle Obama holding out a bunch of broccoli and brussel sprouts with a cartoon balloon over her head and the emboldened words “EAT YOUR GREENS!” in it.

  13. Jeffrey Altman, MD Yesterday at 11:33 a.m.

    This is an absolutely ridiculous law suit that will go nowhere. But like the McDonalds obesity lawsuits, it may have other effects on McDonalds and the fast food industry in general even if (and when) this frivolous lawsuit goes away. There are ulterior motives here from well meaning but misguided groups like Center for Science in the Public Interest. I suspect that while “Happy Meal” type meal/toy promotions may go away, the kids will still wind up eating the same crappy french fries and chicken nuggets and burgers anyways!

  14. rrumaner Yesterday at 11:45 a.m.

    If this lawsuit goes forward, I am going to sue the makers of ******* Jacks. They were probably the first company to put a toy in their package so that kids would want them.

    I hope this lawsuit and all others against McDonald’s like it are tossed. Parents need to stop blaming others for their poor parenting skills. If their kid wants a Happy Meal and they know it is not good for them, they should just say no. What happened to parents actually being parents. My parents would tell me no to things I wanted and guess what, I got over it and it didn’t destroy my life. When did the rules change to let kids dictate to the parent what is right and wrong?

  15. Tom Callahan Yesterday at 12:08 pm

    Imagine how cheap the food would be if McDs did not have to pay all those exclusive studio licensing fees, etc.

  16. Drew Yesterday at 12:22 pm

    What I think I find most interesting is that even here, in the reply section at the Tribune, not one person yet has defended this thing. People around here seem to be able to fight over what color the sky is. But on this issue, so far at least, everyone seems to agree that this is ridiculous!

  17. Amy Yesterday at 12:27 pm

    But, Big Brother with the Ferrari, did the folks at Ferrari lure you in the a kid’s prize? I doubt it…they probably used wine and caviar, so it’s time to sue the wine makers for advertising to your kid who is underage…where will this stop…should have been a lawyer–there’s always work to be had!

  18. Jessica Yesterday at 12:33 pm

    Just tell your kids no, when they ask for it. This is more of a discipline issue than an issue of child obesity. Who’s in control, the child or the parents? Parents need to stop placing the blame on everyone else and examine themselves. Don’t blame McD’s because you’re a pushover for your children!

  19. zack66 Yesterday at 12:35 pm

    this dimwit probably voted for the obuma as well….

  20. mike Yesterday at 1:38 pm

    How is this ANY different from banning ANYTHING that kids might bother their parents for?! Why not ban toy commercials on TV? And ban kids cereals? And ban selling toys in general retail stores?

    After all, apparently, according to this woman, parents have the right not to have their kids want stuff, and its everyone elses job to facilitate that.

    So, so stupid….regardless of one’s opinions of fast food.

  21. Tim Kelly Yesterday at 1:57 pm

    Oh no, if this wins, the entire advertising industry will be put out of business! Right? Advertising entices all of us to want something we don’t have… ipso facto… all advertising must be bad if this case wins. What will we do without commercials on tv, coupons, Sunday sales papers… hey, what about Victoria Secret commercials… uh oh, this could get scary! Ok, kidding aside, what moron judge would allow this to go forward? Only in lalla land of CA. “No” needs to be followed with “no”… giving in does not make McDonalds at fault for parental stupidity. Bet this plaintiff is all that smart… when will be stop allowing suits to go to court like this one and simply say people must police themselves and their own children. Shame on this woman for blaming society for her idiocy!

  22. Wuffy R Yesterday at 2:26 pm

    Oh how easy it is to blame a company for our own behavior. When will we grow-up? Be a parent. Say NO to your child!! PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!!!

  23. MM11 Yesterday at 2:46 pm

    Why doesn’t Ms. Parham go after beauty pageants for children? Parents buy skanky clothes for toddlers and young kids and then make them act like skanks. But noooooo, McDonald’s is far more harmful.

  24. richard Yesterday at 3:20 pm

    amazing that all the commenters are unaware of the context of this suit. The context is simply that McDonald’s does serve food that is high in fat and salt and sugar. It does so to make a huge profit. That is McDonald’s sole purpose: make money, drive stock price up.
    That part is well and good.
    The difficulty is that McDonald’s is a huge and powerful institution that influences cultural choices and values…almost subliminally. McDonald’s is just there. Doing it’s thing. And it’s thing is to make money first, in the best way it knows how: kill the competition and increase sales now, not in the long term, but now. Increase cash flow.
    That operation is in fact at odds with the consequences of it’s actions. McDonald’s doesn’t pay for the medical costs incurred by obesity. Or the disadvantages incurred by fostering a supply chain that relies upon concentrated animal feed operations (anti biotics to beef and chicken, significant pollution to ground water and rivers, increase in MRSA rates (that’s anti biotic resistant infections); and a host of other social expenses.
    This lawsuit is an attempt to bring these “invisible” negative consequences to public view.
    In short, the responders are unfortunately unaware or acting as if they are unaware of simply ignoring the serious costs to ordinary people wrought by large unregulated businesses whose ultimate goals are short term profits.

  25. Amy Yesterday at 4:31 pm

    OK Richard. Interesting information, but who cares? Why not sue Burger King and Wendy’s too? What McDonald’s is doing is just regular business. Why should they pay for anyone’s medical costs (unless they trip and hurt themselves in a restaurant)? Should we sue the grocery stores, as they have lots of unhealthy food? Don’t they do subliminal advertising — all those cereal boxes at the end of the aisles…the oreos…I’m getting hungry now…time to run to Subway!

  26. Tom Callahan Yesterday at 5:03 pm

    I’ll play devil’s advocate Drew. Advertisement marketing should be banned because it interferes with the invisible hand of capitalism. It creates demand that otherwise would not exist were it not for celebrity endorsement, snappy slogans, shiny packaging, and slanted and manipulated, misleading consumer surveys. Is Bananna Boat Suntan lotion TRULY superior to No-Ad Brand????????

  27. suzi Yesterday at 6:58 pm

    I do not agree this lawsuit should go forward. On another note, with Earth Day fast approaching think of all those little toys the children enjoy for a short time that end up in the landfills all over the world. Another reason to just say no.

  28. Tom New Lenox Yesterday at 7:31 pm

    I hope the lady wins her law suit against McDonald’s. Then I hope some smart lawyer starts sueing parents of obese kids. After all, how can McD’s possibly be more responsible for a child’s health than the parents?

Leave a comment

Required. Your email address will not be published.