Photo Credit: Rodale Press
Most of us have fond childhood memories of playing with -- and even collecting -- Happy Meal toys (remember that Teenie Beanie Baby craze in the late '90s?!). And what parent isn't guilty of the occasional trip (or more) to Micky D.'s, or even feeling a sense of relief that your kid is busy playing with a toy so that you can finish your own food?
Well, now there's sad news for the Happy Meal: The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington-based consumer advocacy group, is threatening to sue McDonald's if they continue using toys to promote its Happy Meals. "The practice of tempting kids with toys is inherently deceptive," reads their letter to the U.S. fast-food giant. CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner adds that, "McDonald's use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children's developmental immaturity -- all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It's a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction." The fast-food chain has been including toys in their kids' meals for decades, the latest being plastic watches featuring characters from the movie Shrek Forever After.
McDonald's struck back, saying that the toys are "just one part of a fun family experience at McDonald's," said spokesman William Whitman. And that it offered healthy food options and meals that are "right-sized for kids." Their healthy options include Apple Dippers (apple slices with low-fat caramel dip), low-fat milk and apple juice. However, the majority of kids still go for the higher-calorie french fries and soda options, says USA Today.
I'm on the fence with this one. On one hand I agree that kids are going to want the Happy Meal more when there’s a fun toy inside. (Of course.) However, isn't it ultimately my responsibility as a parent to guide my daughter’s meal choices, whether that means steering her toward McDonald’s healthy options or avoiding the fast-food joint in general?
Do you think that McDonald's should be sued over Happy Meal toys? Chime in below!