McDonald’s is standing its ground after being sued Wednesday in California for marketing its Happy Meals to children.

The plaintiff in the class action lawsuit is Monet Parham, mother of two from Sacramento.   She is represented by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which has been threatening such a lawsuit for months.

In the suit, McDonald’s is apparently not being accused of contributing to the Parham children’s obesity, but rather of having more control over them through Happy Meal marketing than the influence of their mother saying “no.”

“I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat,” Parham said in a news release.

Parham is the mother of Maya and Lauryn, ages 6 and 2, respectively.  The girls do not appear to have a weight problem.

McDonald’s spokeswoman Bridget Coffing said of the lawsuit, “We are proud of our Happy Meals and intend to vigorously defend our brand, our reputation, and our food.”

CSPI has been threatening McDonald’s since June, but the 32,000-outlet chain, which has restaurants ini 117 countries, has refused to play.  

Instead, McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner wrote to Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI’s executive director, telling him: “CSPI is wrong in its assertions, and frivolous in its legal threats.”

Skinner said McDonald’s menu has more choice and variety than ever before.  It also makes in-depth nutritional information available to parents.

In announcing the lawsuit, Jacobson said McDonald’s is still mostly in the business of selling “burgers or chicken nuggets, fries and sodas to very young children.”  

“In other words,” Jacobson said, “McDonald’s offerings consist mostly of fatty meat, fatty cheese, French fries, white flour, and sugar—a narrow combination of foods that promote weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases—and may lead to a lifetime of poor diets.”

Still, the lawsuit is apparently about whether McDonald’s “high tech” marketing is exploitive and strong enough to interfere with a family’s decisions.

“What kids see as a fun toy,” says Parham, “I now realize is a sophisticated, high-tech marketing scheme that was designed to put McDonald’s between me and my daughters.”

CSPI filed the lawsuit in California Superior Court in San Francisco, the only city in America that has essentially banned Happy Meals, setting nutritional standards for meals that use toys or other gimmicks to promote food for sale to children.  Joining in representing Parham is Richard Baker of Baker Law, P.C. in Birmingham.

  • Michael

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Guess what, lady: your relationship with your children (or lack thereof) is YOUR OWN FAULT.. not McDonald’s. God, some people…

  • Stacey Zimmerman

    Thinking back as a parent…when my children came under an influence I did not feel was healthy for them whether physical or mental, I would remove that influence one way or the other. HELLO Monet Parham! Think outside the bun!! Start holding yourself accountable as a parent!!!

  • Maxine Hardin

    I think Ms. Parham is being used as the face of the American parent. I subscribe to CSPI but I think this lawsuit is ridiculous. My kids, my choice. I think Jacobsen needs to market against these type of foods. If he becomes successful; now that would be news worthy.

  • Cris

    I wonder if Ms. Parham will next sue the television station for running the commercials. It is inconceivable what people are allowed to use the courts time for!

  • sunny

    We will always have those parents who feel like external forces are interfering with their roles as mothers or fathers. What I don’t understand is how this sort of logic ever goes anywhere…we see it in the news more than once. I agree with the idea that she is responsible for guiding her kids…and if McDonalds gets in the way that is her lame parenting-nothing else.