McDonald's CEO: Happy Meal Toys Are Here to Stay

mcdonald's happy mealmcdonald's happy mealLast month The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) sent a letter to McDonald's threatening to sue if the company didn't stop using toys to market Happy Meals to kids.

Now, McDonald's is defending its Happy Meals as a "fun treat with right-sized, quality food choices," and says its toys are staying put. (And it has some choice words for the consumer watchdog group.)

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The original CSPI letter was harshly critical of the nutritional value of Happy Meals -- claiming that not only do they cause kids to develop lifelong unhealthy eating habits, but that "none of the 24 Happy Meal combinations listed on McDonald's Web site meet the 430-calorie lunch target, one-third of the 1,300-calorie recommended daily intake for children 4 to 8 years old."

So how did McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner respond?

In a written response to CSPI he argued:

"It seems that you purposefully skewed your evaluation of our Happy Meals by putting them in the context of a highly conservative 1,300-calorie per day requirement ... I'm sure you know this category generally applies to the youngest and most sedentary children."

The letter went on to say that McDonald's offers several options and combinations that fit with a daily diet -- including the white-meat nuggets, low-fat milk, and apple dippers. (Right, because we all know how likely it is that most kids will choose apple dippers over fries.)

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Interestingly enough, McDonald's also emphasized the fact that ultimately it's up to parents to decide what to feed their children -- a sentiment that echoes what several readers of The Stir wrote in the comments section last week.

And as for the Happy Meal toys? McDonald's says that websites and phone lines have been busy with more than 90 percent of customers saying they want the toys with the meals. Therefore, the toys are here to stay.

But the controversy is far from over: McDonald's did take offense to the original CSPI letter for what Vice President of Global Media Relations Walt Riker calls "unprofessional rhetoric and insulting tone." And for its part, CSPI says it's standing its ground and will sue the fast food chain if necessary.

Which group do you agree with more: McDonald's or CSPI? How do you think the debate over Happy Meal toys will play out?

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Written by Kim Conte for CafeMom's blog The Stir.

Image via PunkJr/Flickr