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Making good on a threat it issued this summer, a public advocacy group has filed a class-action lawsuit against McDonald's to stop the burger giant from putting toys in Happy Meals.
Last June, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) warned McDonald's that unless the company immediately stopped using Happy Meal toys to market to kids, it was going to take McDonald's to court. No surprise: McDonald's didn't exactly "cease and desist," as any parent who's recently stumbled over a cheap plastic Transformer on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night will tell you.
CSPI contends that by luring kids in with the promise of toys, McDonald's is encouraging them "to develop a preference for nutritionally poor Happy Meals," according to its press release. While McDonald's counters that parents can choose healthier Happy Meals for their kids, such as those that include low-fat milk and apple slices, CSPI charges that fries and sodas are essentially the default option at the majority of McDonald's franchises, and no such Happy Meal is healthy for a four- to eight-year-old.
According to CSPI, a Happy Meal with a cheeseburger, fries, and a soda has seven grams of saturated fat, 35 grams of sugar, and 640 calories, approximately 200 more calories that would be considered reasonable for a child's lunch.
For its part, the home of Ronald McDonald doesn't exactly appear to be quaking in its big red shoes. The company issued a four-sentence press release in response to the suit, saying "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."
On a seemingly unrelated note, Nation's Restaurant News has reported that McDonald's is seeking to aggressively expand its operations in China. The chain wants to open upwards of 200 restaurants there next year and to ultimately double its total number of restaurants to 2,000 in the next two years.
It does seems somewhat unrelated to the CSPI lawsuit. Then again, there are a lot of kids in China.