McDonald's faces lawsuit threat over 'Happy Meal' toy offers

A nonprofit consumer watchdog is threatening to sue McDonald's unless the fast-food giant stops using toys to market fast food to children.

Using toys to promote "Happy Meals" represents unfair and deceptive marketing and is illegal under various state consumer protection laws, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest , a health advocacy group that promotes nutrition, food safety, and pro-health alcohol policies.

CSPI today served McDonald's a notice of its intent to sue, saying its toy-related promotions violate state consumer protection laws in Massachusetts, Texas, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and California. The letter gives McDonald's 30 days to cease and desist before filing suit.

"McDonald's is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children," CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner said in a statement. "McDonald's use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children's developmental immaturity -- all this to induce children to prefer foods that may harm their health. It's a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction."