A nutrition watchdog group has threatened to sue McDonalds over its “Happy Meals.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) threatened (PDF) to sue if the fast food chain did not stop using toys to market Happy Meals.

“McDonald's practice of dangling toys in front of children is illegal, regardless of what meal the child eventually gets,” the letter stated. “By advertising that Happy Meals include toys, McDonald's unfairly and deceptively markets directly to children.”

The letter called McDonald's practices “predatory and wrong,” arguing that the marketing techniques by McDonalds not only undermine parental authority but also interfere with the ability to raise healthy children. CSPI stated that McDonald's practices violate consumer protection laws in various states — California included.

Last year supervisors in one California county, Santa Clara, were the first in the nation to raise the issue by preventing restaurants from using toys and other incentives to lure kids to unhealthy meals. Restaurants were granted a 90-day grace period before the ordinance went into effect.

McDonald's argues that its meals are the right size and that they comprise healthy choices. Spokesman William Whitman told the Los Angeles Times that toys are “just one part of a fun, family experience at McDonald's.”

LA Weekly