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Happy Meals not so happy for nutrition watchdog group

  • 24 June 2010
  • Written by 
  • Published in Health

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has told McDonald's that it plans to sue the fast-food chain if it does not stop using toys to market its Happy Meals because it thinks the practice is deceptive.


The June 22, 2010 press release CSPI to Sue McDonald's If It Continues Using Toys to Market Junk Food to Children states that 'Using Toys to Promote 'Happy Meals' Is Unfair, Deceptive & Illegal.'

CSPI is a nonprofit organization that investigates and reports on nutrition-based problems and concerns it sees in foods and drinks.

Its website states, 'Since 1971, CSPI has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.'

According to the press release issued by the CSPI, '... using toys to lure small children into McDonald's is unfair and deceptive marketing and is illegal under various state consumer protection laws. CSPI today served McDonald's a notice of its intent to sue, fulfilling a legal requirement of several states in which CSPI might bring the lawsuit.'

Currently, McDonald's is advertising Shrek toys with its Happy Meals as part of the "Shrek The Third" movie.

Two of the toys are "Shrek," which features such phrases as 'I'm an ogre!' and 'I'm on it"; and "Puss In Boots", which says 'Fear me if you dare' and 'I gotta go.'

CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner states, 'McDonald's is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children. McDonald's use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children's developmental immaturity'”all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It's a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction.'

Please read the CSPI news release in more detail for additional information on this subject of Happy Meals and the use of toys to advertise  food to children.

Page two talks about commentary from CSPI's executive director.



In addition, Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director for CSPI, has written a commentary that appears in the Huffington Post.

Its title is 'McDonald's Lawsuit: Using Toys to sell Happy Meals.'

Jacobson begins by stating: 'Dangle a toy in front of a child's eyes, and you can bet the child will do just about anything to get it. And that's exactly what McDonald's (and other restaurants) do, using everything from TV commercials to signs in windows to the Internet in order to get kids to pester their parents to take them to the restaurant.'

Jacobson reports that fast-food companies spent $360 million in 2006 on toys for meals targeted to children. He states 'In the same year, fast food restaurants sold more than 1.2 billion children's meals with toys to children ages 12 and under, accounting for 20 percent of all child traffic at those restaurants. It should be no surprise that companies employ the practice--it works.'

The Center for Science in the Public Interest opposes the practice of using toys to sell unhealthy foods to children. One of the organization's problem with such a practice is that children want the toy and parents often times give in and buy the unhealthy meal over the healthy one just to appease their children.

Many cities and municipalities are agreeing with the CSPI. They are beginning to ban the use of toys associated with fast-food meals that are unhealthy for children. Is your local city one of them?

Page three concludes with further comments from Jacobson.



Jacobson concludes with: 'McDonald's claims to be "'proud of our long heritage of responsible communication with our customers, especially children.' And its Happy Meals Web site says: 'You want the very best for your kids, and so do we. That's McNonsense. McDonald's wants your money--and it'll manipulate your kids any which way to get it.'

You may not agree with the stand taken by the CSPI and the comments made by its executive director, or maybe you do agree.

For instance, the CSPI contends that McDonald's use of toys for selling Happy Meals is 'unfair and deceptive marketing' and 'illegal.' What do you think about these statements?

Whatever you viewpoint on the matter, the use of toys to sell unhealthy food to children is a concept that should be seriously considered and evaluated by all parents and all responsible citizens.

The nutritional statistics for McDonald's Happy Meals are found at: Happy Meals Nutrition (pdf). Check it out yourself and decide!


Also check out the June 23, 2010 iTWire article Apple Dippers or Fries for Happy Meal? You better ask! It begins "The Center for Science in the Public Interest conducted a survey that showed McDonald's employees serve French fries the vast majority of the time rather than Apple Dippers if customers do not ask which side dish they prefer. There are a lot more calories and fat in French fries!"




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