Consumer group suing McDonald's over toys

Wed Dec 15, 2010 3:36pm EST
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By Lisa Baertlein and Dan Levine

LOS ANGELES/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. consumer group sued McDonald's Corp to stop the world's largest hamburger chain from using Happy Meal toys to lure children into its restaurants.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is representing a Sacramento mother of two in the lawsuit, which alleges unfair marketing and other violations of California's consumer protection law. It does not seek monetary damages.

"The lawsuit is about the change, not the money," CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner said.

"We are proud of our Happy Meals and intend to vigorously defend our brand, our reputation and our food," said McDonald's spokeswoman Bridget Coffing. "We listen to our customers, and parents consistently tell us they approve of our Happy Meals."

Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and tort reform advocate, said he thinks that McDonald's will ultimately prevail but that it will likely have to go through multiple rounds of legal wrangling, which would suit CSPI.

"In the meantime, they've got their step toward a national debate, which is what they want," Olson said.


McDonald's debuted the Happy Meal in the United States in 1979. Modern offerings have included themed items from popular films like "Shrek" or sought-after toys like Ty Beanie Babies.   Continued...

<p>Two McDonald's Happy Meal with toy watches fashioned after the characters Donkey and Puss in Boots from the movie "Shrek Forever After" are pictured in Los Angeles June 22, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>