Monet Parham, a mother of two, says she filed the suit Wednesday in California Superior Court in San Francisco. It aims to stop McDonald's from using toys to market directly to young children with the help of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington.
Parham says the main reason her 6-year-old, Maya, and 2-year-old, Lauryn, ask to go to McDonald's is to get toys based on Barbie, Shrek, or Strawberry Shortcake and the food seems an afterthought.
"I am concerned about the health of my children and feel that McDonald's should be a very limited part of their diet and their childhood experience," Parham said in a statement.
Steve Gardner, litigation director for the CSPI, says although Happy Meal TV advertising shows glimpses of Apple Dippers and low-fat milk, the default option put into a Happy Meal usually is french fries and sodas.
A Happy Meal of a cheeseburger, fries and a Sprite has 640 calories, 7 grams of saturated fat and nine teaspoons of sugar, Gardner said.
Documents cited by CSPI in the lawsuit show three decades ago, McDonald's advertising aim was to "go after the kids" because their parents must take them to the fast-food restaurant and that "companies have found that kids are a lot more tempted by the toys than the food."