On the heels of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors regulating the manner in which the fast-food giant serves Happy Meals in its county, a new attack has been launched by a group claiming that the tiny toys served up with the meals amounts to deceptive advertising.
The lawsuit from the group, the Oakbrook, Illinois-based Center for Science in Public Interest filed the lawsuit in the sympathetic venue of San Francisco County’s Superior Court. The complaint alleges unfair competition and false advertising.
According to the complaint, “McDonald’s exploits very young California children and harms their health by advertising unhealthy Happy Meals with toys directly to them.” Additionally, “children 8 years old and younger do not have the cognitive skills and the developmental maturity to understand the persuasive intent of marketing and advertising.”
CSPI director Stephen Gardner said that his organization approached McDonalds several times out of court to change the Happy Meals, but that the company had “stonewalled them.” “We’re not trying to force McDonald’s to sell apples and sprouts,” Gardner said. “We’re just trying to stop McDonalds from marketing to 3-year-olds.”
The plaintiff in the lawsuit Monet Parham, a Sacramento mother of two, claimed she was bringing the lawsuit because of repeated requests by her two daughters, 6 and 2, for trips to McDonald’s to get the Happy Meals.
“I don’t think it’s OK to entice children with Happy Meals with the promise of a toy,” she said, adding that she tries to hold her daughters, 6 and 2, to monthly visits. However, she said the requests increased this summer, thanks to the popularity of “Shrek Forever After” and the idea of collecting all of the toys, which would require weekly visits.
“Needless to say, my answer was ‘no,’ ” she said. “And as usual, pouting ensued and a little bit of a disagreement between us. This doesn’t stop with one request. It’s truly a litany of requests.”