Consumer Group Threatens McDonald's Over "Deceptive" Happy Meals

McDonald's Happy Meal
A McDonald's Happy Meal (AP)

WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) They call them "Happy Meals," but a Washington-based consumer advocacy group says for kids' health there is nothing happy about them and it's threatening a lawsuit unless McDonald's changes its ways.

The fast food chain "unfairly and deceptively" markets toys to children through its Happy Meals, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said in a press release today.

The group, which often picks fights with fat heavy chain restaurants, also took issue with the caloric punch Happy Meals deliver  - noting that a meal containing a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milk hits 700 calories, more than half the recommended daily allowance for kids.

"McDonald's marketing has the effect of conscripting America's children into an unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers, causing them to nag their parents to bring them to McDonald's," Stephen Gardner of CSPI wrote to McDonald's brass. "Once there, they are more likely to receive a meal that is too high in calories, saturated fat, added sugars and sodium.

Not surprisingly, McDonald's didn't see it that way.

"We are proud of our Happy Meal which gives our customers wholesome food and toys of the highest quality and safety," William Whitman, McDonald's Vice President of Communications, said. "Getting a toy is just one part of a fun, family experience at McDonald's."

The group claims it gave McDonald's 30 days notice before going public with its threats to sue.