Food Police Declare War On The Happy Meal

The legendary food police are going after Ronald McDonald and his Happy Meals.


The McDonald’s Happy Meal, the children’s-sized meal-with-a-toy familiar to so many parents and children, is now in the cross hairs of the Center For Science In The Public Interest:

WASHINGTON—Tell it to the judge, Ronald: A nutrition watchdog group will sue McDonald’s if the fast-food chain continues to use toys to promote Happy Meals. According to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, 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.

“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” said CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner. “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.”

(…)

Regardless of the nutritional quality of what’s being sold, the practice of tempting kids with toys is inherently deceptive,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “I’m sure that industry’s defenders will blame parents for not saying ‘no’ to their children. Parents do bear much of the responsibility, but multi-billion-dollar corporations make parents’ job nearly impossible by giving away toys and bombarding kids with slick advertising.”

“We know from scientific research that young children—and even older ones—do not have the ability to understand how marketing has been designed to influence them,” said Kathryn Montgomery, professor of communication at American University and an expert on media and children. “In the era of digital marketing, these vulnerabilities are magnified even further. McDonald’s use of these techniques raises troubling questions, for health professionals, parents, and policy makers.”

The CPSI’s threat of litigation comes just two months after Santa Clara County, California passed a resolution banning restaurants from putting toys in children’s meals unless they meet certain nutritional guidelines.

The CPSI goes on to quote a “concerned parent”:

“McDonald’s makes my job as a parent more difficult,” said Sheila Nesbitt, 36, a project manager from Champlin, MN, and a parent of a six-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl. “They market cheap toys that appeal to kids and it works. My kids always want to go to McDonald’s because of the toys. I try my best to educate my kids about healthy eating but it’s hard when I am competing against the allure of a new Shrek toy.”

Here’s an idea Ms. Nesbitt, just say no. You’re the one who controls the meals your child eats, don’t feed him fast food and don’t give in to every tantrum for Happy Meal toy. That’s what adults do.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Health, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. “McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” said CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner.

    I’m not sure tar and feathers are enough for someone as revoltingly offensive and stupid as to compare cheeseburgers and fries to child molestation.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Isn’t it nice that we have our very own mutaween?

  3. PD Shaw says:

    When traveling with my young kids, I have found that McDonald’s has some of the best food for kids. I say this with some regret since I’d prefer to go about anywhere else, but the typical restaurant I visit in travel only serves chicken fingers, fries and little in terms of uncarbonated drinks.

    I emphaise _travel_ because I know where to eat near where I live.

  4. steve says:

    CSPI’s site says it accepts no corporate or government funding. Meh, let them go at it. I am guessing they mostly want publicity, which they just got.

    Steve

  5. Boyd says:

    That’s what adults do.

    Hear, hear, Mr. Mataconis.

  6. sam says:

    Julia Child said that McDonald’s has the best french fries on planet Earth. Take that, porridge posse.

  7. IIRC, McDonalds used to have the best fries on earth, then they bowed to the food fascists and stopped using fats from animals for their frying. No doubt, Julia Child would have strongly disapproved of this spineless act.

  8. Drew says:

    “..resolution banning restaurants from putting toys in children’s meals unless they meet certain nutritional guidelines.”

    Heh. One of our companies is testing a corn based resin for a “plastic” packaging option. “Green theme. ………but edible, nutritional toys, eh?

    nyuk, nyuk, nyuk

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***IIRC, McDonalds used to have the best fries on earth, then they bowed to the food fascists and stopped using fats from animals for their frying. No doubt, Julia Child would have strongly disapproved of this spineless act.***

    Hear,hear Mr. austin.

    They was the bomb when you dipped them into your chocolate shake!

  10. Drew, of course, you’re going to make toys shaped like guns out of them aren’t you?

  11. JKB says:

    How far parents have fallen. These days they can’t even drive past McDonalds. Back when I was a kid, you sat at the table until you ate your vegetables. It was how I learned that hot vegetables were far better that after they got cold on the plate. So suck it mom and dad.

  12. floyd says:

    What was the name of that organization again?…
    Oh! It’s “Busybodies Gone Wild”…yeah that’s it!
    When is this sort of nonsense ever going to meet some real opposition?

    These proslesizing pseudo-scientific religious zealots must be stopped at some point…
    Oh well, if Gore is right we’ll all soon be munching down Solent Green anyway, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase…”You are what you eat”!

  13. hcantrall says:

    I think the bigger issue they have that they’re not saying here is that fat is still under attack. Even after the last 30 years of being told that eating fat makes you fat and kills your heart – pulling all of the fat out of our food and we are fatter than ever. Carbing it up with processed grains and sugar wasn’t the answer – time to start looking at some other theories.
    I’m not saying that McDonald’s is the healthiest food out there but eating there once in a while won’t kill you. If you’re taking your kids there so often that you need to worry about this, you have other problems that are not caused by McDonalds toys.

  14. John says:

    Good man @heantrall. The travesty of this entire conversation is that we’re arguing over who has better french fries when all fries are pretty much insulin wrecking pieces of death via silent inflammation. Next time you find yourself watching TV folks, check out how many ads there are for medications and products whose purpose is ultimately to reduce inflammation of some kind.

  15. Franklin says:

    While I basically agree with everyone here (except G.A.’s suggestion of dipping fries in chocolate shakes, even though it’s not that much different from me dipping sausages in maple syrup), one has to admit that marketers are in general an amoral bunch. McDonald’s, as well as most toy manufacturers, spend millions trying to brainwash kids. And we know who it’s affecting – it ain’t *our* kids, because the comments above reflect some healthy parenting skills. It’s the next generation of people that your tax dollars are going to be spent on because they’re fat, stupid, and maybe even ugly!