It was only a matter of time after the County of Santa Clara, California, announced it was considering banning the toys offered with McDonald's Happy Meals, that someone would bring suit. On June 22, The Center for Science in the Public Interest announced that it had served notice on McDonald's Corporation of its intent to sue over what it calls "deceptive marketing" to kids by giving away toys with fast food.
Echoing the concerns of the California lawmakers, the CSPI says the practice of marketing unhealthy food to kids with the use of toys is unfair. According to CNN.com Money, in its notice letter to the hamburger giant, CSPI says that McDonald's toy-related promotions violate state consumer protection laws in four states and the District of Columbia.
"McDonald's is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children," CSPI's litigation director, Stephen Gardner, said in a prepared statement. "It's a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction."
"We couldn't disagree more with the misrepresentation of our food and marketing practices," McDonald's spokesman William Whitman said, also in a prepared statement. "McDonald's is committed to a responsible approach to our menu, and our Happy Meal offerings. We have added more choice and variety than ever before, a fact that has been widely reported and recognized."
CPSI representatives do acknowledge that the real responsibly for teaching children healthy eating habits rests with parents. But, they add, the constant onslaught of goodies and sharp ads make a parent's job needlessly difficult. CNN reports that according to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2006, fast food companies spent more than $520 million on advertising and toys to market children's meals.
The letter from the CPSI gives McDonald's 30 days to agree to stop the practice before a suit is filed.