Happy Meal lawsuit dismissed by California judge

Children in California will still be able to get toys with their Happy Meals.

A San Francisco judge has dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that sought to stop McDonald’s Corp. from using toys to market its meals to children in the Golden State. The suit had been filed in late 2010 by Monet Parham, a California mother of two, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

The suit had claimed that the world’s biggest hamburger chain was violating consumer protection laws and exploiting children’s vulnerability by using toys to lure them to eat nutritionally unbalanced meals that can lead to obesity. The lawsuit did not seek damages.

McDonald’s spokeswoman Danya Proud said that the lawsuit was without merit and detracted from “the important issue of children’s health and nutrition.”

“We are proud of our Happy Meals and will vigorously defend our brand, our reputation and our food,” Proud said in the statement. “We stand on our 30-year track record of providing a fun experience for kids and families at McDonald’s.”

The company last July announced that it would reduce the portion of French fries in every Happy Meal by half and replace them with apple slices. The rollout of the initiative began in September and was recently completed.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a statement that it will discuss with Parham whether to appeal the case. The group called the use of toys to market food a “predatory practice that undermines parents, causes rifts in families and harms kids’ health.”

The suit, filed in the county of San Francisco, was dismissed by Judge Richard Kramer on Wednesday.

Shares of McDonald’s were up 73 cents at $98.21 in afternoon trading.

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