SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - McDonald's uses free toys in its Happy Meals as bait to "exploit children's developmental immaturity ... subvert parental authority," and "insidiously and deceptively access parents' wallets," a mother claims in a class action in Superior Court.
Lead plaintiff Monet Parham claims that young children cannot "understand the persuasive intent of marketing and advertising," and that dangling toys before them exacerbates the risk that children will develop unhealthy eating habits that will lead to obesity.
Happy Meals contain high levels of calories, saturated fat and sodium, lack the fruits, vegetables or fiber children need, and are contributing to a "super-sized health crisis in California," according to the complaint.
Parham says that TV ads, billboards and websites drive her 6-year-old daughter to clamor for the toys, such as "Shrek movie character figures," and that children view McDonald's marketing as good nutritional advice.
She says she is frustrated that her daughter's "friends are McDonald's viral marketers" helping "mobilize pester power in order to sell unhealthful meals to kids."
She seeks an injunction and class damages for unfair and deceptive trade, unfair competition and consumer law violations.
Parham is represented by Stephen Gardner with the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Dallas and G. Richard Baker of Birmingham, Ala.