Using toys to lure kids to unhealthy fast food is a "predatory practice,"… (David Paul Morris, Getty…)
McDonald's Corp.can keep including toys in Happy Meals in most parts of California after a San Francisco judge threw out a proposed class-action lawsuit seeking to ban the practice in the state.
Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer did not give a reason in his decision for dismissing the suit, initially filed in 2010 by the consumer advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest and Monet Parham, listed in the suit as a California mother.
Michael F. Jacobson, the group's executive director, said in a strongly worded statement Thursday that using toys to lure kids to unhealthy fast food was "a predatory practice" that involves "unscrupulous marketing techniques."
"McDonald's must stop exploiting children at some point," Jacobson said, adding that eventually, the tactic "will seem as inappropriate and anachronistic as lead paint, child labor and asbestos."
The ruling does not affect individual ordinances in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties that banned toy giveaways with fast-food meals directed at children.
McDonald's said it was pleased with the decision, saying in a statement that the lawsuit "is without merit and detracts from the important issue ofchildren's healthand nutrition."
"We are proud of our Happy Meals and will vigorously defend our brand, our reputation and our food," spokeswoman Danya Proud said. "We stand on our 30-year track record of providing a fun experience for kids and families at McDonald's."
Last year, McDonald's bent to consumer advocacy pressure and said it would add a serving of fruit or vegetables to all its Happy Meals while shrinking the serving of fries.
Other companies, including Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants Inc., have agreed to cut calorie and sodium levels in children's menus.