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Are McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys Illegal?

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Happy Meal by Jason Ippolito on Flickr

Happy Meal by Jason Ippolito on Flickr

We recently talked about McDonald’s threatening a lawsuit regarding a potential trademark violation, but now the fast food giant is back in the legal news again — this time on the receiving end of a possible lawsuit.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has announced its intention to sue McDonald’s for packaging toys with Happy Meals, food combo packages aimed toward children. CSPI alleges the Happy Meal toys violate consumer protection laws in several states, including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Texas and also in Washington, D.C.

CSPI objects to the tying of allegedly unhealthy food to toys. CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson has been quoted as saying, “Dangling a toy in front of a kid to try to get them into your restaurant is unfair and deceptive, because it’s targeted at kids who are what? Four years old? Six years old? Who don’t even understand the concept of advertising.”

For its part, McDonald’s denies the allegations and is quick to point out that their Happy Meals can actually be quite healthy if the right choices are made — and those are the ones that are more heavily advertised.

“In the U.S., McDonald’s primarily advertises the four-piece Chicken McNuggets Happy Meal, which includes Apple Dippers, low-fat caramel dip and 1 percent low-fat white milk,” William Whitman, VP of Communications for McDonald’s USA said in a statement.

But where does parental responsibility come in? Keith Thomas Ayoob, director of the Nutrition Clinic at Rose R. Kennedy Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, notes that choosing what children eat “becomes a parenting issue of who is in charge.”

What do you think? Should McDonald’s be prohibited from offering toys with Happy Meals because they may unfairly influence children’s meal choices? Or is it up to parents to be informed on what is healthy for their children no matter what the advertising and marketing says?

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June 24th, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Consumer Protection

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