June 22, 2010
McDonald's happy meal toys, kids love them and some adults even collect them, but now some say they're illegal.
French fries, a hamburger and soda might not be the most nutritious meal choice for kids, but according to a food watchdog group, handing out toys with this kind of lunch is also "pernicious, wrong and illegal."
Like a carrot in front of a rabbit, the Center for Science in the Public Interest alleges that McDonald's dangles toys in front of kids' faces to tempt them into eating its Happy Meals. The group says it would be a healthier meal if those toys were carrots.
"The Happy Meals aren't terribly nutritious. They're typically too high in calories, too high in salt, and if you get a soft drink, way too high in sugar," said Michael Jacobson, Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Now the so-called "food police" has announced it will sue McDonald's if it doesn't take the toys out of the bag.
"There are state laws against unfair and deceptive advertising practices. And this is a classic example, where you're going to people who don't understand the intent of the ad," said Jacobson.
Fries and a soda aren't the only options in Happy Meals. Kids can also choose sliced apples and low-fat milk as sides. And those healthier options are the only ones that feature the enticing images of cartoon characters and toys.
In defense, McDonald's says the consumer group is misrepresenting the company's food and marketing practices.
Getting a toy with your hamburger, McDonald's says, is just "part of a fun, family experience." But would children still be happy with their meals without the joy of a new toy?
McDonald's has 30 days to respond to the lawsuit threat.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest hopes McDonald's will agree to a compromise before this goes to court.