Mother sues McDonald's for using toys to market 'Happy Meals'

Suit claims promotion 'exploits very young children'

A Sacramento mother and daughter sued McDonald's Corp. in San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday, accusing the company of engaging in illegal deception by using toys to market its fast-food meals to children.

The lawsuit by Monet Parham and her 6-year-old daughter, Maya, was filed by lawyers from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer group that focuses on nutrition and food safety.

It charges that McDonald's is violating California's Unfair Competition Law by allegedly targeting advertising at children by promising toys with its Happy Meals.

The law prohibits unfair and deceptive business practices.

"McDonald's exploits very young children and harms their health by advertising unhealthy Happy Meals with toys directly at them," the suit alleges.

"Children eight years old and younger do not have the cognitive skills and the developmental maturity to understand the persuasive intent of marketing and advertising.

"Thus, McDonald's advertising featuring toys to bait children violates California law because it is inherently deceptive and unfair," the suit alleges.

McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Ill., is the world's largest fast-food chain with 32,000 restaurants worldwide and more than 1,300 in California.

Happy Meals, first introduced by the company in 1979, now typically contain a hamburger, cheeseburger or fried chicken nuggets; French fries or apple slices with caramel dip; a soda, milk or juice; and a free toy.

The lawsuit claims most of those meal combinations are unhealthy because they have too many calories and too much fat, sugar and salt for young children.

It asks for a court order barring McDonald's from advertising Happy Meals to California children by featuring toys. The suit seeks to be certified as a class action on behalf of all California children under the age of 8 and their parents.

McDonald's spokeswoman Bridget Coffing said in a statement, "We are proud of our Happy Meals and intend to vigorously defend our brand, our reputation and our food.

"We are confident that parents understand and appreciate that Happy Meals are a fun treat, with quality, right-sized food choices for their children that can fit into a balanced diet."

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors last month passed a law prohibiting companies from including toys with meals unless the meals meet certain nutritional guidelines. The measure, which was opposed by McDonald's, will go into effect in December 2011.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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Posted by BuffaloMom
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2010 at 7:04 am

I would understand if children were buying these Happy Meals- offering them toys would definitely be tempting. But it is the parents purchasing these meals. If you as a parent didn't know by now that fast food is unhealthly, then shame on you. Now you are teaching children that frivolous lawsuits are a remedy for bad choices. Shameful.

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Posted by Say NO
a resident of Amador Estates
on Dec 16, 2010 at 7:17 am

This mother is an idiot. She needs to just say no. She can also turn off the TV if the commercials are an issue for her. She better learn to be in control and to say NO to her young child or she is in for a LOT of trouble when that kid becomes a teenager.

Also - she has an ulterior motive - google her.

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Posted by Member!!!
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2010 at 7:18 am

Somebody just looking for damn money! The parents are the ones buying the kids meal. I mean do your kid put a gun to your head and make you drive to Mickey D's?????? Monet Parham go sit your ass down somewhere and quit feesing your daughter that ish! COOK AT HOME and you wouldn't have that problem.....You as a mother can also replace the fries with apples minus the caramel and get milk/juice instead of soda idiot!

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Posted by another state
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2010 at 7:33 am

This is pretty ridiculous! Shall we all sue Toys R Us? Burger King? or any other place that is selling children's products? In our area, my kids can get a happy meal cheaper than a regular mcdonalds meal, plus get a bonus toy. Reminds me of cracker jacks as a kid....maybe I should sue them? The lady obviously has no control over her little girl, or it wouldn't be a problem. And as someone else said, the parent is the one purchasing. Say no. If your child is a brat and doesn't listen...well, the problem is much deeper than a McDonalds happy meal.

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Posted by Trying to teach
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Dec 16, 2010 at 8:30 am

I'm so thankful to see that other people think this is a farce - idiot is not to strong a term to describe this "mother", but greedy idiot is probably far more applicable. I wonder why I sometimes struggle to teach my students that cheating isn't okay - then I look at the examples some of them have as parents and I begin to understand its just what they're being taught at home. Time for the rest of the parents to clearly teach our children this really isn't what our country is about. Far too many seem to be seeking the "free ride"...

Like this comment
Posted by Toni
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Dec 16, 2010 at 8:32 am

I agree with most of these responses. It is the parent who needs to take control not the children.

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Posted by steve
a resident of Parkside
on Dec 16, 2010 at 8:34 am

As bad as this mother is, it's almost worse that the 'Center for Science in the Public Interest' would waste it's donor's funds hiring lawyers to address a parenting and personal responsibility issue.
I know it's not popular these days to take responsibility for one's own actions, but this organization could better spend it's money educating ignorant breeders like Monet Parham than taking the stance of fighting 'evil corporations' that allegedly prey on the offspring of nanny state advocates.

Like this comment
Posted by Judy
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Dec 16, 2010 at 8:39 am

This is the first time everyone is on the same page. I was thinking about when my child was young and the chance of a cheap toy didn't make him want a happy meal!

Like this comment
Posted by Kelly French
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Dec 16, 2010 at 8:41 am


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Posted by Member
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 16, 2010 at 8:48 am

So this woman is asking the government to regulate everyone because she can't exercise enough self-control to avoid going to McDonalds or enough self-control to say No to her child who wants a Happy Meal?
She should take responsibility for her own actions.
Government is not the answer.
I wonder how the nutrition of a Happy Meal compares with what this woman feeds her child at home. I bet the mother has nothing but junk food and snacks at home.

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Posted by Sue
a resident of Danville
on Dec 16, 2010 at 8:51 am

This parent (Mother) is clearly an idiot! What a waste of other peoples time and her sitting there hoping to fill up her pockets.

Maybe she is the type of parent that thinks if she uses that useful word, "NO" that her child won't care for her anymore.

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Posted by Concerned Californian
a resident of Valley Trails
on Dec 16, 2010 at 9:21 am

If she is not as smart as an 8-year old - which is basically what her lawsuit claims - she's not smart enough to avoid the "deceptive marketing practices of McDonald's," then Child Protective Services need to take her child(ren) away. Maybe the state should sue her for child endangerment?

Why is it that all the liberal idiots hate McDonalds? Compared to Jack in the Box and Carl's Jr.; their burgers have about 1/3 the sodium and a lot less fat.

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Posted by GARY
a resident of Stoneridge
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:27 am

This woman represents everything wrong with today's "society." She renegs on her own responsibility to her children to teach and nurture them, blames others for her shortcomings, obscures the truth with her opinion, works for a government agency or at least a government funded agency (so we're paying her during all this!!), promotes frivilous lawsuits, et cetera et cetera et cetera...I mean how much can we take?

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Posted by Joe Crosslin
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:36 am

Once again, this just highlights two things: First, is the need to reform the system, if the loser of the lawsuit had to pay all court costs, there would be fewer idoitic lawsuits. Second, too many parents do not know what it means to be a parent, they're afraid little Johnny may not like them if Johnny doesn't get his way; being liked is not the job of a parent.

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Posted by Chuck Wiedel
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:54 am

Of course, her (Hollywood?) attorney chose a venue where he expects a favorable verdict, for his poor, wronged client(s)! After all, SF just passed an ordinance against such agregious capitalistic behavior on the part of the big, bad corporation, so they'll understand!
Its the mother who ought to be sued for teaching her child HER agregious behavior! And, BUYING this awful food for her!! I doubt the child has the money to buy these terrible things herself, or the car to get there, without MOM! Sue-happy left-winger!!! I hope she wins just enough to buy a one-way ticket to some socialist paradise!

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Posted by D W
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:59 am

Pathetic, isn't it

Like this comment
Posted by Nosy Neighbors
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 16, 2010 at 11:26 am

This woman is a purely and simply a phony. Anybody with her credentials, nutritional knowledge and obvious socio-political leanings would for one never even allow her children to eat processed...anything. Look at her bio and see for yourself;

Name: Monet Parham-Lee, MPH
Title: Regional Program Manager
Organization: Network for a Healthy California, CA Dept. of Public Health
Address:1616 Capitol Ave
City: Sacramento State: CA Zip Code:95814
Phone: (916) 552-9906
Monet Parham-Lee serves has a Regional Program Manager within the Network for a Healthy California; a program of the California Department of Public Health funded by the USDA-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly the Food Stamp Program). She spends most of her time at the Network providing consultation, technical assistance and on-going support for the Regional Networks which facilitate the full integration of a variety of State Network-level functions on the regional level, bringing services and support closer to Network-funded projects and partners serving the low income audience. Ms. Parham-Lee also serves as the Network's lead staff person on early childhood matters, working closely with several Network funded Statewide Leadership Projects focused on early nutrition and physical activity. Prior to joining the Network, she worked in a variety of health services, childrens services, and public health programs at the State-level, as well as with the Greater Sacramento Urban League.

...isn't the internet a beautiful thing? Go crawl back under your rock Ms. Parham.

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Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of Mohr Park
on Dec 16, 2010 at 11:28 am

Again, someone seeking to use the Court system to make a statement & maybe a buck. Perhaps she should also litigate all TV advertisement aimed at children under the age of 8. Maybe all cartoons should also be banned for presenting unrealistic messages to young children. Afterall, who really wears square pants & lives under the sea? Maybe Disney could be found guilty for not really making dreams come true... As we point out faults in the mom, let's not let the attorney off too easy in this dialogue...

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Posted by Informed Resident
a resident of Mohr Park
on Dec 16, 2010 at 11:57 am

Ms. Parham-Lee's litigation is ready made for stand up comedy. Maybe she will sue Big Hunk candy for being too small; Pay Day candy for not inclduing a pay check in every bar; Mr. Goodbar for not being a good candy bar; Doublemint Gum for not producing twins; by the way, where does that Green Giant live when he's not picking veggies? If she ventures outside the food world, how about sueing the folks who's commercial shows a baby walker driving down the highway! What about the talking babies who are making financial investments? Perhaps we can find an attorney to represent the 8 year old against her mom's deceptive use of the child in advertising & promoting mom's personal agenda!

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Posted by maja7
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm

"Children eight years old and younger do not have the cognitive skills and the developmental maturity to understand the persuasive intent of marketing and advertising.

The children are not buying the Happy Meal....duh. Where is the parent's backbone (it's called a spine) to say "NO" to their child. I realize it may be unpleasant to 'upset' your little one and yet, it is necessary. Life is about learning how to deal with these little upsets, disappointments that life hands you on a regular basis. Deal with it Mom. I don't know what scares me more, the thought of this "mom" raising a child or the Nanny-State that giving into this kind of weak-thinking will create? God help us.

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Posted by Pazo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Is the imbecile that filed this lawsuit another welfare queen with a brood of kids, no father anywhere in sight, being supported by the government, and looking for a big payday?

We simply must take back our legal system from the lawyers, a big majority of which are left wing loons. We would be much better off if we had only 1/4 the number of lawyers in this country.

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Posted by Educated
a resident of Foothill High School
on Dec 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Wouldn't it be simpler and more effective to pass a law that people like Ms. Parham who can't say no to a child not be allowed to have children? Problem solved.

Like this comment
Posted by Ryan
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm

It's unfortunate that we have people like this contributing to the gene pool.

Like this comment
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:01 pm

I didn't read all the details, but it sounds like the state should take the children from this "mother." She obviously is not fit to be a parent if a stupid toy at McDonald's causes her to lose control.

Like this comment
Posted by Extreme
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2010 at 10:32 pm

A lawsuit is a bit extreme !

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Posted by Mark
a resident of Birdland
on Dec 17, 2010 at 1:26 am

Ms. Parham-Lee might be all the names everyone here calls her, but she still got all of us to discuss nutrition whether we agree with her or not. It sounds as if she outsmarted everyone here.

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Birdland
on Dec 17, 2010 at 6:59 am

I agree that this woman needs to learn to say "no" to her kids when their desires are outside what she considers reasonable or healthy. But when some contribute to this thread and suggest this woman is milking public assistance and should have her children removed by CPS, isn't that going over the top? Posting this mother's address on a forum filled with this type of dialogue also seems irresponsible. Why not agree that she is likely doing this for money and it is a frivolous lawsuit and leave it at that?

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Posted by steve
a resident of Parkside
on Dec 17, 2010 at 8:51 am

Mark, nutritional concerns are really a sideline to this story. The real motivation here is the power play by this egocentric breeder to shake down a big corporation (you know, the root of all evil, accroding to the libs---even if they employee thousands).
She's also generated a lot of of discussion about parental responsibility, while displaying her own lack of parental common sense.
Apparently, she's just outsmarted you----are you a lawyer?
Sharon-your concern for the mother's address being exposed is misplaced. The published address is her state funded office location, so us taxpayers are indirectly funding this travesty.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm

So what is next? Suing TV stations because parents cannot say NO to their kids when they want to watch an inappropriate show? Or suing the movie theaters because a parent cannot say NO when the kid asks for popcorn and hot dogs during the movie?

Come on, what kind of mother feels she has to go to McDonald's because of the happy meal toy? My kids never went to McDonald's because they "forced" me.

And btw, it is not just McDonald's that gives a toy: burger king does too. Is this woman going to sue BK too?

Courts need to dismiss this case and perhaps fine the woman for using taxpayer funds for a frivolous suit.

As for CPS, I do agree that is a bit over the top, but if the woman cannot raise her kids without bothering the rest of us, then perhaps CPS taking over is not a bad idea!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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