A lawsuit seeking to stop McDonaldâ€™s Corp. from offering toys with Happy Meals must be dismissed because parents can always choose not to buy the meals for their children, the hamburger giant said in a court filing late Monday.
The lawsuit accuses McDonaldâ€™s of unfairly using toys to lure children into its restaurants. The plaintiff, Monet Parham, a Sacramento, California mother of two, charges that the companyâ€™s advertising violates California consumer protection laws.
The Happy Meal has been a huge hit for McDonaldâ€™s â€” making the company one of the worldâ€™s largest toy distributors â€” and spawning me-too offerings at most other fast-food chains.
One recent and very successful Happy Meal promotion was a tie-in with the popular DreamWorks Animation film â€Shrek Forever After.â€ The meals included toy watches fashioned after the movieâ€™s characters Shrek, Donkey, Gingy and Puss in Boots.
McDonaldâ€™s use of Happy Meal toys also has come under fire from public health officials, parents and lawmakers who are frustrated with rising childhood obesity rates and weak anti-obesity efforts from restaurant operators, which are largely self-regulated.
Parham, who filed suit last December, is represented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group.
In the lawsuit, Parham admits she frequently tells her children â€œnoâ€ when they ask for Happy Meals, McDonaldâ€™s said in Mondayâ€™s court filing.
â€œShe was not misled by any advertising, nor did she rely on any information from McDonaldâ€™s,â€ said the company.