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

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 18,034.93 208.63 1.17%
Nasdaq 4,994.60 62.78 1.27%
S&P 500 2,100.40 19.22 0.92%
Treasuries 1.90 0.04 2.43%
Data as of 9:40pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
General Electric Co 27.02 -0.23 -0.84%
Bank of America Corp... 15.57 0.01 0.06%
Apple Inc 127.60 2.85 2.28%
Microsoft Corp 42.90 1.29 3.10%
Facebook Inc 83.09 2.31 2.87%
Data as of 4:03pm ET
Sponsors

Sections

A special Mother's Day gift card comes with a laser-etched design and a matching gift box. It costs $200 and comes preloaded with $50 to spend at Starbucks. More

A growing number of hospitals are relocating to higher-income areas in hopes of attracting better paying patients. More

Jen Glantz is carving out a piece of the wedding industry: as a professional bridesmaid. Here's a look at what that entails. More

Fliers report higher satisfaction levels when it comes to flying, but Spirit Airlines ranks lowest on the American Customer Satisfaction Index Travel Report 2015. More