McDonald’s under fire for toys in Happy Meals

McDonald’s is facing legal action in the US after accusations that it entices children to eat its fast food by offering toys with its Happy Meals.

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Monet Parham, a mother in California, filled the lawsuit against the fast food chain last week saying that McDonald’s is making it harder to encourage children to eat healthily by offering toys with its children’s meals.

“I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat,” she says.

Her case is being backed by the US Centre for Science in the Public Interest and follows a similar lawsuit in Wisconsin.

In a statement McDonald’s says: “We are proud of our Happy Meals and intend to vigorously defend our brand, our reputation and our food. We stand on our 30 year track record of providing a fun experience for kids and families at McDonald’s.”

McDonald’s claims that parents “consistently tell us they approve of our Happy Meals” and understand that they can fit into a balanced diet for children.

McDonald’s chief executive Jim Skinner recently told the Financial Times that the “food police” were trying to “dictate behaviour through legislation”.

Though this is a US only case, McDonald’s UK bosses and anti-obesity campaigners such as the British Heart Foundation, will be awaiting the outcome with interest.

Food manufacturers in the UK have increasingly been the focus of healthy eating campaigners who have accused them of marketing unhealthy foods to children.

Cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s has previously come under fire for including toys in its sugary cereal products and stopped including the toy giveaways in 2007, in favour of promotions based around family activities.

Kellogg’s also changed its marketing strategy so that it does not target advertising at children under six.

Readers' comments (2)

  • This is utter madness. The Happy Meal toys and cereal freebies are just smart marketing and should not be penalised in this way.

    I grew up during the 80s/90s when advertising to children was rampant and I remember it very fondly, especially the colourfully designed cereal boxes with all their promotions - today's cereal market is as dull as it has ever been. However, neither have I nor any of my family ever been overweight or regularly sick.

    At the end of the day, these foods are all fine when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet that includes regular exercise. What makes children overweight is not individual foods but OVERALL diet/lifestyle. Parents that don't put their foot down - as mine did - when their children nag them for this or that have only themselves to blame for subsequent health problems.

    Marketing is just a form of temptation - something that has been with us since time dot and manifests itself in all walks of life. Parents need to lead by example and teach restraint - a crucial lesson in life.

    Personally, I don't like McDonald's products one bit; however, I would stand by their right to use such marketing tactics. Likewise, Kelloggs should grow some and not pander to a few disgruntled parents that cannot handle their children and insist on spoiling things for the rest of us.

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  • Surely because you can purchase these toys separately there is no case to answer?!

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