McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys Lure Children to Junk Food

Watchdog tells food giant to retire toys from Happy Meals within 30 days

By on June 23rd, 2010 20:41 GMT
McDonald’s has often come under fire for its products, beverages or attitude towards public health. This time, it’s for its toys in Happy Meals that it’s being criticized because it’s a campaign that targets children directly, luring them to junk food and unhealthy eating patterns, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) believes, as cited by WebMD. The CSPI has issued a warning to McDonald’s, according to which it’s supposed to retire all toys within 30 days or suffer the legal consequences.

Following the publication of two separate studies that show how children find junk food with cartoons on the package tastier and another one that shows McDonald’s employees offer the less healthy variant of the current Happy Meal, unless specifically asked for the healthier one, CSPI sees this as the right moment to act. By including toys in its Happy Meals, McDonald’s is literally corrupting children to junk food and, thus, a very unhealthy lifestyle.

“A watchdog group threatens to sue McDonald’s, claiming Happy Meals toys lure kids into unhealthy eating habits and break state consumer-protection laws. ‘McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,’ Stephen Gardner, litigation director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), says in a news release. The CSPI says it will sue McDonald’s if the firm doesn’t stop its toy-related promotions within 30 days. The group claims that the toys are ‘unfair and deceptive’ marketing that violates laws in Massachusetts, Texas, New Jersey, California, and the District of Columbia,” WebMD informs.

Estimative figures show about a billion dollars is invested yearly by most fast food companies only in campaigns targeting children. At the same time, another $350 million is believed to be spent on toys promoting certain menus and, of course, McDonald’s is the most prominent company to do so. The CSPI sees this as a direct violation of the law, which is why it’s saying McDonald’s has 30 days to pull all toys from all Happy Meal menus or it will take the matter to court. Children don’t know any better to resist such a tempting marketing campaign, therefore targeting them is wrong, the watchdog also says.

“Eating Happy Meals promotes eating habits that are virtually assured to undermine children’s health. McDonald’s marketing has the effect of conscripting America’s children into an unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers, causing them to pester their parents to bring them to McDonald’s,” Gardner says in the same letter. McDonald’s’ response is blunt and unequivocal. “We couldn’t disagree more with the misrepresentation of our food and marketing practices made by CSPI,” William Whitman, McDonald’s vice president of communications, says. 

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Center for Science in the Public Interest targets McDonald’s for offering toys with Happy Meals
   Center for Science in the Public Interest targets McDonald’s for offering toys with Happy Meals