SAN FRANCISCO A lawsuit that seeks to stop McDonald's from selling Happy Meals must be dismissed because parents can always prohibit their children from eating them, the hamburger giant said in a court filing.
The lawsuit claims McDonald's unfairly uses toys to lure children into its restaurants. The plaintiff, Monet Parham, a Sacramento, Calif. mother of two, claims the company's advertising violates California consumer protection laws.
The Happy Meal has been a huge hit for McDonald's -- making the company one of the world's largest toy distributors -- and spawning me-too offerings at most other fast-food chains.
But lately it also has come under fire from public health officials, parents and lawmakers who are frustrated with rising childhood obesity rates and weak anti-obesity efforts from restaurant operators, which are largely self-regulated.
Parham, who filed suit last December, is represented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group.
In the lawsuit, Parham admits she frequently tells her children "no" when they ask for Happy Meals, McDonald's said in a court filing late on Monday.
"She was not misled by any advertising, nor did she rely on any information from McDonald's," the company said.
Should Parham's lawsuit be allowed, it would spawn a host of other problematic legal proceedings, McDonald's said.
"In short, advertising to children any product that a child asks for but the parent does not want to buy would constitute an unfair trade practice," the company said.
Attorneys for Parham did not immediately respond to a request for comment late on Monday.
(Reporting by Dan Levine)