June 24 2010

Consumer Group To Sue McDonalds Over Happy Meals

A consumer watchdog group focused on nutrition is threatening to sue McDonalds over its use of toys to market Happy Meals to children.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) announced yesterday that it intends to sue McDonalds for “unfairly and deceptively” marketing toys to children.  The group is announcing its lawsuit 30 days  prior to filing it in hopes that the company will negotiate with them over its complaints according to the Associated Press.

“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.”

“McDonald’s marketing has the effect of conscripting America’s children into an unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers, causing them to pester their parents to bring them to McDonald’s,” wrote Gardner in a notice letter to McDonald’s vice chairman, CEO, and president Jim Skinner, and McDonald’s USA president Jan Fields.

While many, myself included, would say it is the job of the parents to say ‘no’ to their children when they pester them, CSPI had an answer for that argument also.  “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.”

I’m sorry, but when did it become “nearly impossible” for a parent to say ‘no’?  I wasn’t aware that all of this “slick advertising” somehow removed a parent’s ability to form words.  There is no question that Happy Meals, even with their ‘healthy alternatives’, are not the best food choice for kids, but McDonalds has every right to market their goods in any way they see fit so long as they stay within the confines of the law.  A parent’s lack of a backbone is not their problem.

What I find intriguing in all of this is, why now?  The CSPI has existed since 1971 and the Happy Meal was created in 1979, so somehow it took this group 31 years to figure this out?  I mean, it couldn’t have anything to do with Santa Clara county banning Happy Meal toys, could it?  I mean, this certainly has to all be coincidence, right?  We couldn’t possibly believe that a group that is so concerned with the healthy eating habits of our children somehow ignored this “stranger in the playground handing out candy to children” for 31 years and just by pure chance decided to grab themselves some publicity by piggy backing on the publicity of someone else’s actions, could we?  I mean, come on, these people are dedicated to fighting for the health of our children!  There’s no way they were completely ignorant all this time and just woke up suddenly!  This has to be all part of some well thought out strategy!

… so, there’s this bridge in Brooklyn I’ve been looking to sell …

Honestly, I’m disgusted by what CSPI has done here.  Not only have they somehow not addressed something they see as such a heinous threat to children for 31 years, and not only have they obviously latched on to someone else’s publicity, but they have tried to make a link between McDonalds and pedophiles.  Don’t believe me?  What do you think “McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” is trying to say?  Look, I have no love for the McDonald’s corporation, I haven’t eaten in one since May 2000, but this whole slew of recent attacks on them is just more nanny state posturing.

I’m sorry, but I don’t need anyone stepping in and telling me what I can and cannot eat, and I certainly don’t need them telling me as a business owner when I cannot use a perfectly legal marketing tool in how I promote my business.  Sure, this is about toys with Happy Meals, but you think it’ll stop there?  Yeah, I’ll give you a deal on that bridge.

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