No, really. That’s the gist of the lawsuit. In fact, after reading the LA Times’s piece on this and the press release from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it looks like the Happy Meal aspect is basically irrelevant to the case. Granted, they’re ostensibly going after McDonald’s because they’re worried about children’s nutrition, but that’s really just a fig leaf designed to make the suit more sympathetic to health fanatics and overprotective parents. Their real target here, it seems, is advertising aimed at children — not just in the context of unhealthy food or even healthy food, but in any context. Read the CSPI release for yourself; their argument is that young kids aren’t intelligent enough to understand marketing, and “advertising that is not understood to be advertising is inherently deceptive.” Which means, I presume, that virtually every toy commercial ever made should be potentially actionable.
Who knew that when I whined to mom and dad as a kid about “Star Wars” figures, I might have been facilitating a tort?
The lawsuit alleges that “McDonald’s exploits very young California children and harms their health by advertising unhealthy Happy Meals with toys directly to them” and that “children 8 years old and younger do not have the cognitive skills and the developmental maturity to understand the persuasive intent of marketing and advertising.”…
“I don’t think it’s OK to entice children with Happy Meals with the promise of a toy,” Parham said, adding that she tries to hold her daughters, 6 and 2, to monthly visits to the fast-food chain. But she said their requests increased this summer, thanks to the popularity of “Shrek Forever After.” Collecting all of the toys offered in conjunction with the movie would require weekly visits, she said.
“Needless to say, my answer was no,” Parham said. “And as usual, pouting ensued and a little bit of a disagreement between us. This doesn’t stop with one request. It’s truly a litany of requests.”
According to CSPI’s press release, it’s the toy in the Happy Meal, not the food, that’s getting the kids’ attention and putting poor Monet Parham through the terrible ordeal of having to say no to her children. Which raises the question: If it’s nutrition that Parham’s worried about and not having to cope psychologically with the occasional stamping of tiny feet, why not buy ’em the Happy Meal and throw the food away? Bring some brussels sprouts to McD’s in a baggie and let ’em dig in while they play with their new Voltron or whatever. Or better yet, why not follow the San Francisco model and just ban Happy Meals coast to coast? That’s what the practical effect of winning this lawsuit would be, after all. This is what I’m all about, my friends — solutions.
Actually, in all fairness, Parham’s probably not afraid to stand up to her kids. Read this Daily News piece and you’ll see that this “ordinary mom” of two is actually a children’s nutrition advocate on California’s state payroll. It’s not her kids who need guidance on healthy eating, it’s yours, and if that means using the courts to try to deny them an occasional treat that they might otherwise enjoy, hey. Click the image below and scroll down to watch her in action.