Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

McDonald's warned: Drop the toys or get sued

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A nutrition watchdog group is threatening to sue McDonald's if the fast-food giant won't stop using toys to to lure children to its Happy Meals .

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Tuesday that it has served McDonald's notice of its intent to sue over what it says is unfair and deceptive marketing.

"McDonald's is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children," CSPI's litigation director, Stephen Gardner, said in a prepared statement. "It's a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction."

In its notice letter, CSPI says that McDonald's toy-related promotions violate state consumer protection laws in four states and the District of Columbia. The letter gives McDonald's 30 days to agree to stop the practice before a suit is filed.

The nutrition group claims that using toys to entice children instills bad eating habits and puts kids at higher risk of risk of developing obesity, diabetes, or other diet-related diseases over the course of their lifetime.

McDonald's disagreed with the CSPI's criticism, saying that its U.S. advertising campaign is focused on low-calorie Happy Meals.

"We couldn't disagree more with the misrepresentation of our food and marketing practices," McDonald's spokesman William Whitman said in a prepared statement.

"McDonald's is committed to a responsible approach to our menu, and our Happy Meal offerings," he said. "We have added more choice and variety than ever before, a fact that has been widely reported and recognized."

CSPI director Michael Jacobson acknowledged that parents bear much of the responsibility for children's eating habit -- a criticism industry defenders often levy.

"But multi-billion-dollar corporations make parents' job nearly impossible by giving away toys and bombarding kids with slick advertising," he said.

In 2006, fast food companies spent more than $520 million on advertising and toys to market children's meals, according to the Federal Trade Commission. To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,813.39 1.20 0.01%
Nasdaq 5,116.14 13.34 0.26%
S&P 500 2,088.87 0.00 0.00%
Treasuries 2.23 -0.01 -0.49%
Data as of 7:39am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Pfizer Inc 32.87 0.90 2.82%
HP Inc 12.64 -2.00 -13.66%
General Electric Co 30.36 -0.30 -0.98%
Bank of America Corp... 17.44 -0.03 -0.17%
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 8.10 -0.20 -2.41%
Data as of Nov 25


Looks like the Magic Kingdom is lacking some sparkle. Disney's cable channels have lost millions of subscribers in recent years. More

Brazilian police arrested a prominent senator and billionaire CEO for interfering in the investigation of Petrobras, which has pushed Brazil into recession. More

Watsi crowdfunds donations to cover healthcare costs of those in need. And it's seeing a surprising trend: micro-donations via the popular Chinese social networking app, WeChat. More

Some of the coolest toys this year are from small businesses. Here are 10 hot toys that just might be a smash hit this holiday season. More

Facebook just increased the amount of paid time off new dads working at its international offices can take. More